The worldwide revenues from the sale and licensing of patents have soared into the hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years. Consequently, the market for patents has become an important strategic option for firms to stay competitive, both by allowing them to leverage their own intellectual property rights (IPR), but also as a way of accessing important external technology.

This article analyzes markets for patents in Sweden past and present by presenting and examining data on the market for patents in the 19th century as well more recently available data. We show that the origins of technology trade can be traced back to the 18th century and that an active national market for patents emerged by the end of the 19th century where intermediaries such as patent agencies and specialized marketplaces helped to broker deals between buyers and sellers of inventions.

By contrast, today the domestic Swedish markets for patents is relatively insignificant, but Swedish firms instead act on international markets for patents. More firms are active on the demand side than on the supply side of the market, which indicates that the impact of a few large firms on the aggregate number is potentially large.