Patents serve as indicators of a university’s knowledge base; consequently, information on the patent volumes and patenting activity of universities is crucial for scientific and industrial organizations and policy makers. By matching secondary patent data from PATSTAT with secondary data on German universities from the CHE research ranking, we provided a broad overview of the patenting activity of German universities. Specifically, we first introduced a patent ranking. Second, we analyzed a broad spectrum of different indicators of the patenting behavior of German universities. Third, we analyzed potential determinants of their patent output. Our data revealed that patenting activity varied not only among the 25 universities that had the highest overall number of patent applications between 2002 and 2011 but also among the 156 universities that filed at least one patent. Using a Heckman sample selection model for our regression analyses, we analyzed (1) the influence of university size, university type, technical university, and faculty profile on the probability that a German university was active in patenting (N = 328) and (2) the relationships between patenting experience, research breadth, and research quality and the patent output of German universities (N = 156). Our findings suggest that patent output at least partly depends on these determinants, thereby shedding light on the substantial performance differences in patenting activities that existed in our sample.
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In the following, we use the term university as collective term for traditional universities, universities of applied sciences, and colleges of art and music.
We thank an anonymous reviewer for highlighting this difference.
The PATSTAT database is the EPO Worldwide Patent Statistical Database licensed by the OECD-EPO Task Force on Patent Statistics. We employed the April 2012 version for our analyses.
Please note that patent output was significantly lower in 1992-2001 relative to the period that we consider here (e.g., in our sample of 156 universities: number of patent families: M = 10,987, SD = 2.54 in 1992-2001 compared to M = 52,686, SD = 6.94 in 2002-2011; number of patent applications: M = 29,474, SD = 6.16 in 1992-2001 compared to M = 135,321, SD = 17.87 in 2002–2011).
In the following, we use the terms patent and patent application interchangeably.
We thank an anonymous reviewer for advising us to include the faculty profiles in our model.
A patent ranking of all 328 universities is available upon request.
We thank an anonymous reviewer for this valuable comment.
Note that a post hoc analysis based on data from 1992 to 2001 revealed that this explanation for the contradictory finding concerning patenting experience is valid for patent applications; however, for the other dependent variables (i.e., for patent families, PCT applications, and IPC4 breadth), our results were robust, indicating that there might be other reasons for the conflicting results.
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The authors would like to express their sincere gratitude to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). This study was conducted as part of a BMBF-funded project in a research program on the topic of “Wissenschaftsökonomie”. Additionally, the authors thank the four anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Business Economics and the Editor, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Fandel. This manuscript has benefited substantially from their valuable comments and suggestions.
J. Glauber and J. Wollersheim contributed equally to this work and should be considered co-first authors.
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Glauber, J., Wollersheim, J., Sandner, P. et al. The patenting activity of German Universities. J Bus Econ 85, 719–757 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11573-014-0748-y
- University patent
- Academic performance
- Knowledge-based view