President Obama’s recent State of the Union address spoke of domestic oil and gas industry including shale gas (“American-made energy”). A leading but controversial technology for this industry is, of course, hydraulic fracturing. A brief review of the patent literature for 2012 confirms that inventors in this area for US patent filings are largely from the US. In a global economy, such domestic concentration for inventorship is somewhat unusual. The concentration of this innovation in the U.S. should be monitored.
As of today, in 2012, 38 patent publications refer to “hydraulic fracturing.” Of these, 27 (71%) list all U.S. inventors, and 32 (84%) list all U.S. inventors or list a majority of inventors as residing in the U.S. Only 5 of the 38 (13%) list all non-U.S. inventors. The leading state for inventors is Texas.
Note, President Obama suggested in his address that public research dollars played a large, critical role in the natural gas boom. This claim may be exaggerated. He apparently refers to shale research from the late 1970′s, but that research was largely dropped and the later innovations did not flow from this effort. Our review of the patent literature indicates relatively little federal funding compared to other sectors of technology.
In general, we would like to see more innovation related to health, safety, and environmental protection, and this would appear to be one area where government funding would seem particularly appropriate. Only two the patent publications appear to relate to this part of the technology.