Within the field of the organisation of science, concerns about how academics generate patents tend to focus on a single set
of either national or international patents. The main aim of this research is to study both national and international patenting
in order to understand their differences. We have approached this issue from both a historical and an economic perspective,
using data from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the largest PRO in Spain. Three periods can be distinguished
in the CSIC’s history, according to the political context, namely the dictatorship (1939–1975), the transition to democracy
(1976–1986) and democracy (1987-to date). The prevailing legal and institutional framework has marked the way in which patenting
by CSIC has evolved in each of these periods. The current situation is one in which there is strong internationalisation of
patenting activity, and in this most-recent period we explore trends in some of the economic influences on patenting activity.
We conclude that the political and normative context may shape the culture of international patenting at PROs like the CSIC
and that increasing technological cooperation has supported this internationalisation. However, very often foreign partners
are included in the application in order to extend protection abroad for commercial reasons, so their number may not be a
good indicator of inventive activity.