Patents issued drops in N.O.

Area still holds average position for cities its size

New Orleans ranked near the middle of the pack nationally in a new report that measured the number of patents issued annually by metro area, despite the fact the city had the second-biggest drop in the number of patents issued from 1990 to 2010.

The Brookings Institution study found that an average of 79 patents were issued per year in New Orleans from 2007 to 2011, enough to rank the Crescent City 127th out of 358 metro areas. But the number of patents issued to New Orleans businesses and research institutions fell by 2.5 percent from 1990 to 2010, the second largest drop among the metro areas. Only Baton Rouge, which had a 5.3 percent drop during that period, fared worse.

Pete Kelleher, associate vice chancellor for the LSU Office of Intellectual Property, Commercialization & Development, said mature industries, such as petrochemical and chemical, traditionally don’t generate as many patents as fields such as electronics, pharmaceuticals and biomedical sciences.

Of the patents issued in New Orleans in 2011, Brookings said Laitram Corp. was responsible for eight. LSU accounted for seven patents, while Tulane University generated six patents.

Kelleher said the total research at LSU is “very close” to the average recommended by the Association of University Technology Managers. AUTM, which represents more than 300 colleges, research institutions and teaching hospitals, said there should be one “invention disclosure” per $2 million in research.

An invention disclosure is a preliminary stage in the patent process, which comes after research suggests something could be a useful device or product. If it is determined that the finding in the invention disclosure has commercial applications, then a patent application is made, Kelleher said.

According to the Brookings report, inventions, embodied in patents, are a major driver of long-term regional economic performance.

“In recent decades, patenting is associated with higher productivity growth, lower unemployment rates and the creation of more publicly traded companies,” the report said.

According to the think tank, the effect of patents on growth is roughly equal to that of having a highly educated workforce.

“A low-patenting metro area could gain $4,300 more per worker over a decade’s time, if it became a high-patenting metro area,” the report said.

Most U.S. patents — 63 percent — are developed by people living in 20 metro areas, which are home to 34 percent of the U.S. population. Those metro areas are well-established technology and business hubs, such as San Jose, Calif., which topped the rankings with an average of more than 9,200 patents per year from 2007 to 2011; San Francisco; New York and Los Angeles.

Brookings also broke down the number of patents issued to companies. IBM was the leader in a list dominated by giant technology firms, with more than 41,500 patents issued from 2007 to 2011. Microsoft was second, with just over 16,000 patents being issued during the period, while Intel, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric rounded out the top five.

Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said the results of the Brookings study were “predictable.”

“We always come in around the middle or even slightly below the pack in these technology reports,” he said.

Knapp said the key is for more private, industrial research and development to drive up the numbers of patents and for LSU to pursue more opportunities.

Advocate business writer
Ted Griggs contributed
to this report.