Planet Money
11:48 am
Thu May 10, 2012

The Ideas America Sells To The World

Originally published on Fri May 11, 2012 5:13 pm

The U.S. sells over $1 trillion worth of goods to the world every year. We also export hundreds of billions of dollars worth of services — legal and financial advice, plane tickets, etc.

After we ran the chart above earlier this year, one category in particular piqued our interest: Royalties and licensing. That category is, essentially, ideas America sells to the world.

In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, the world paid U.S. companies $105.6 billion to use our ideas. This is why companies that rely on royalties and licensing — Microsoft, say, or Disney — are always making such a big deal about piracy and intellectual property. Here's a closer look.

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory. Software, not surprisingly, is huge. The one big jargony category is "industrial processes." This includes patents on drugs (a big one), as well as on particular ways to make everything from chemicals to cars.

For detailed data on U.S. royalty and licensing exports to countries around the world, see this Excel spredsheet from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

See more posts in our Graphing America series.



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