Apr 3, 2024 - News

The Triangle is one of the most innovative areas in the U.S., according to patent data

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 19: People walk through the campus of Duke University ahead of the game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Duke Blue Devils on February 19, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Duke University ranked No. 29 worldwide for patents filed in 2023, according to the National Academy of Inventors. Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

The greater Research Triangle is living up to its moniker, as it continued to have one of the highest concentrations of utility patents granted in 2022.

Why it matters: The rate of new patents filed in a region can indicate how innovative its researchers, businesses and universities are.

Caveat: Getting a patent is one thing; actually creating the proposed product or service is another, Axios' Shawna Chen, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

  • That said, the number of patents granted is still a useful proxy for measuring something as quantitatively slippery as innovation.

By the numbers: Both the Raleigh and Durham metro areas' rates of patents per 100,000 residents are among the 15 highest in the country, per U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data.

  • Durham ranks No. 8 with 103.8 utility patents per 100,000 residents, and Raleigh ranks No. 13 with 83 patents per 100,000 residents.
  • Yes, but: The rate of patent creation in the Triangle has fallen over the past decade. That could be because remote work hampered collaboration and stifled innovation, according to the Triangle Business Journal.

Zoom in: The Triangle is by far the biggest engine of new patents in North Carolina, with 42% of all the state's patents coming from Wake County, according to a 2021 report from the N.C. Commerce Department.

  • The region is benefiting from a high concentration of research universities plus an ecosystem of tech and life sciences companies built around Research Triangle Park, said Joey Morris, a Raleigh-based patent litigation lawyer at Smith Anderson.
  • "It really does start with the universities. I think that has been the fundamental grounding that we had to start with," Morris said, noting the universities helped establish Research Triangle Park decades ago.
  • "All of the companies that are located in RTP really drive a lot of those patent grants," he added.

In 2023, Duke, N.C. State and UNC were all among the top 100 patent-producing universities in the world, according to the National Academy of Inventors.

  • Duke ranked No. 29 with 92 patents in 2023, while N.C. State came in at No. 60 with 53 patents and UNC placed No. 94 with 36 patents.

Among local private companies Red Hat, Wolfspeed and SAS filed the most patents in 2023, the Triangle Business Journal reported.

  • Raleigh software firm Red Hat filed 254 last year.
  • Durham semiconductor maker Wolfspeed had 53.
  • Cary's SAS Institute posted 34.
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