Tickets to the Global Market: Chinese Exporters’ US Patents Drive Interconnected Economic Success

HKUST IEMS Thought Leadership Brief No. 77


Robin Gong

In the present day, over 50% of patent applications submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) originate from inventors located outside of the United States. Notably, a significant portion of these inventors are from emerging markets. these international patent activities plays a vital role in facilitating the success of firms from emerging economies in the global marketplace.

Our study on Chinese exporters filing patents in the USPTO reveals that successful first-time applicants achieve substantially greater export growth compared to their similarly situated counterparts that failed. Furthermore,

these successful applicants are more likely to survive and expand in their existing markets, with their competitive advantages in foreign markets lasting for at least five years after their initial patent application success.

A US patent provides Chinese exporters with more than just market protection in the US. Successful applicants are able to expand in markets beyond the US, as a US patent award signals the Chinese firm's ability to produce high-quality products and their credibility in honoring contracts. This helps to alleviate information frictions in international trade, ultimately benefiting the firm's global business prospects. 

This research is suppoted by HKUST IEMS Research Grants. 

About the author

Robin Gong is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), where he also serves as a faculty associate of the HKUST IEMS and a research affiliate of the Center for Economic Policy (CEP). Holding a Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University (2019), his research focuses on international trade, innovation, and entrepreneurship. His research has been published in leading economic journals such as the Journal of International Economics.

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