Trade

The Ideas America Sells To The World

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.

Services Exports

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.

Breakdown of Service Exports: Royalties and License Fees

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.


Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: