July 1, 2012
Each year the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awards about 200,000 patents to inventors. Last year a Stanford student built a camera that lets users change what’s in focus after snapping a shot; Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers invented a tiny, foldable car; and a patent was awarded for devising a metal that is as strong as steel but can be molded like plastic.
Which is why policy makers should flag a recent study that found more than three-quarters of patents from America’s top ten patent-producing universities, including MIT, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were the result of breakthroughs by immigrants. Those universities produced 1,466 patents—a fraction of the total awarded—but many were in such cutting-edge fields as information technology and molecular biology.