The prevalent Canadian narrative is that as a country, we struggle to compete in the global innovation economy. One metric that is often cited as proof of this is the number of patents we are granted in comparison with other advanced countries. In this Brief, we have looked more closely at Canada’s performance in the numbers of patents granted.

What we found isn’t that we have a problem securing patents, it’s that we have a problem with the commercialization of them. Canada’s success in obtaining patent grants in the US has improved by 143% over the last ten years. The number of patents with one or more Canadian inventors climbed to 8,903 patents in 2015, placing us eighth on a per GDP basis against competitor countries in 2015.

However, of the patents granted to Canadian inventors by the US Patent Office in 2016, 58% were assigned to companies domiciled in other countries. This is up from 45% in 2005. This means that Canada earns a return through commercialization for less than half of the patents granted in the US to Canadian inventors.

Patenting is an international, not a local activity; and the nuances of the process must be considered before the numbers are aggregated into a single indicator for the purpose of policy making.

You can get a full copy of the report here.