University versus corporate patents: A window on the basicness of invention

Manuel Trajtenberg, Rebecca Henderson, Adam Jaffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is an attempt to quantify key aspects of innovations, ‘basicness’ and appropriability, and explore the linkages between them. We rely on detailed patent data. particularly on patent citations, thus awarding the proposed measures a very wide coverage. Relying on the prior that universities perform more basic research than corporations, we find that forward-looking measures of ‘importance’ and ‘generality’ capture aspects of the basicness of innovations. Similarly, measures of the degree of reliance on scientific sources. and of the closeness to the origins of innovational paths, appear to reflect the basicness of research. As measures of appropriability we use the fraction of citations coming from patents awarded to the sarne inventor, and in fact these measures are much higher for corporations than fbr universities. An examination of a small number of patents that are universally recognized as ‘basic’ provides further support for these measures. We find also evidence of the existence of ‘technologl trajectories’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-50
Number of pages32
JournalEconomics of Innovation and New Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Basic research
  • Citations
  • Innovation
  • Patents


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