Individual inventors accounted for the vast majority of all hydropower (hydro, wave, and tidal power) patents granted in the U.S. in 2008 (28 of 38 total U.S. patents granted — almost 74 percent), a recent Foley & Lardner LLP study reveals. All other corporations or entities accounted for less than three percent of the patents. These patents may represent an area of interest for firms looking to enhance or enter the hydropower field by acquiring or licensing the rights to new hydropower technologies.

Nearly 40 percent of all hydropower patent protection granted during 2008 (based on the number of claims in the patents) was for sub-surface current-driven hydropower generating devices that typically featured flow ducts or other flow accelerating structures. The next most active areas for hydropower patent protection involved the development of wave-driven hydropower generation (26 percent) (hydropower generation using water diversion schemes accounted for approximately 12 percent), while tidal-driven hydropower generation accounted for almost 10 percent of the patents. One area of interest for monitoring further developments is waste-water driven hydropower generation, which accounted for more than eight percent of the total.

U.S. hydropower patents in 2008 were granted to entities from 11 countries. The United States accounted for nearly 63 percent of the patents (24 of 38), with Great Britain obtaining approximately eight percent, and Taiwan and Italy each obtaining about five percent. The remaining seven countries each accounted for less than three percent of all the U.S. hydropower patents granted in the hydropower field.

The 24 hydropower patents granted to United States entities were distributed among 12 states, with Texas obtaining the most (four total) and New York, Virginia, and California each accounting for three patents each.