Patents granted in countries worldwide are booming as companies race to compete in emerging economies. Data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show that patents for inventions are skyrocketing at home (light gray bars) and that a rising share is going to foreign concerns (dark pink line) as they take steps to tap huge American markets. “Global patenting is growing as more innovative firms are exporting to the U.S. and more U.S. firms are patenting abroad,” says Alan Marco, acting chief economist at the patent office. Developing countries are a key part of the expansion, he says, because a greater cache of patents helps them grow faster if they also have sound educational systems and available capital. In the meantime, the success of any individual product may increasingly depend on its design; patents for design (dark gray bars) are rising quickly as more innovation is directed at making technology easier than ever to use.

For a list of cities with the fastest-growing patent counts, see