Slowing patent application volumes show innovation suffering since the pandemic

April 12, 2023
  • Jacob Rowden
  • A recently-published annual report from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office showed that 2022 recorded the third consecutive annual decline in application volume—the longest downward trend since data has been published in 1973—providing further indications that the dominance of remote work over the past three years has stifled innovation.
  • Recessionary conditions have not necessarily led to a slowing of innovative activity in the past – compared to the past three downturns, application volume in 2022 was more than 13% lower than the average level three years into recovery. In fact, there has never been a period before 2022 in which patent volume declined against levels three years prior, except in 1982 when many applications were frontloaded to avoid a change in regulations later that year.
  • The report comes at a time when executives are increasingly attentive to declines in productivity, innovation and collaboration that are occurring as a result of large-scale remote work. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made headlines recently when a memo was publicized which suggested that employees who joined in a remote capacity, particularly younger employees, have had lower performance than peers whose employment began when employees were in offices.
  • As operational efficiency increasingly comes into focus, lagging innovation and productivity will encourage further return to offices and implementation of hybrid attendance strategies.