Economic Highlight – Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Over the next couple of months, we will be releasing economic highlights from our work on the Regional Economic Strategy Update. These highlights will cover information from both industry clusters and foundations of the local economy.

One way to measure the level of innovation in a region is to examine the level of utility patents that are issued to companies and organizations. Of the peers we measured, the Puget Sound region is second only to the Bay Area in terms of these patents issued between 2006-2010. Utility patents protect the function and abilities of an invention (think cotton gin), versus design patents which protect the ornamental design of a functional item (think the iconic Coke bottle design).

The Bay Area has more than twice the population (7.15 million) than the Puget Sound area (3.5 million) and produced more than three times the utility patents in the period from 2006-2010 (16,364 versus 4,660). Over that period of time, however, the volume of patents in the Bay Area increased by 26%, while the number of patents in the Puget Sound area increased by 79% – more than double the rate of any of the peers that we reviewed.

Locally, the bulk of the patents issued are from activities in King County. In 2010, 78% of the regions utility patents were from King County companies, while Kitsap County came in second with 13%.

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