Analyzing Patents Generated by SBIR Firms

Report Number: NPS-AM-14-C11P18R02-067

Series: Acquisition Management

Category: Small Business

Report Series: Proceedings Paper

Authors: Toby Edison

Title: Analyzing Patents Generated by SBIR Firms

Published: 2014-04-01

Sponsored By: Acquisition Research Program

Status: Published--Unlimited Distribution

Research Type: Other Research Faculty

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Keywords: innovation, patents, patent rights, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The Department of Defense is the single largest funder and consumer of research and development in the United States. The main incentives the DoD gives innovators are direct funding, research contests, and, increasingly, intellectual property rights protection. Institutions protecting intellectual property provide incentives for innovation, because they give innovators the ability to commercially exploit their inventions before others can enter the market with similar technologies. To this end, the Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power to grant inventors the right to patent their inventions. Patent rights are a controversial economic incentive that grants a temporary monopoly to the inventor to exploit the technology, in exchange for public declaration of the invention. Even more controversial is the retention of patent rights by private inventors conducting publicly funded research: Proponents argue that giving private inventors title to their invention gives them incentives to commercialize their innovations, opponents argue that public research results should remain in the public domain, and not be given the temporary monopoly protection of patent. Until the 1980s, the default for the DoD in assigning patents rights was for the government to retain ownership, with private firms and individuals obtaining patent rights in exceptional circumstances. In the 1980s, the Bahy-Dole Act and Stevensen-Wilder Act, both in 1980 and the 1982, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Act were part of a series of laws granting inventors and participating firms intellectual property rights, including patents rights to inventions funded by federal research money. To date there has been no systematic analysis of these laws on the propensity to patent DoD funded research. This research builds a database of patent funded by the DoD to see if the statutory changes have increased the propensity to patent of defense research performers. The analysis is specifically set up to see if participants in the SBIR program are more innovative than other research performers. To answer this question, I use non-linear regression techniques to test the following three hypotheses: 1. H0: SBIR participants have a higher patent output per R&D dollar than other research performers. 2. H0: SBIR participants receive more citations per patent than other research performers. 3. H0: SBIR participants produce more high citation patents per patent, or per R&D dollar than other research performers. I find that SBIR contract winners are more prolific patenters per DoD R&D dollar than large defense contractors, but less prolific than Universities. The citation rate (per DoD R&D dollar and per patent) for SBIR patents is also more than other DoD Assignees but less than University assignees.