Except for 2006, more U.S. patents were granted in 2009 (191,927) than in any previous year (see top chart).  And the number of patents granted in the last decade (1,827,000) is more than the number of patents granted in the quarter century between 1963 and 1987 (1,752,000).  For patent applications, almost five million applications have been filed in each of the last three years, and there were more applications filed in the last ten years than in the 33 years from 1963-1995 combined (see bottom chart).

Bottom Line: Despite the "worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," the most important ingredients and determinants of long-term growth for the United States were relatively unaffected: innovation, entrepreneurship, ingenuity, creativity, originality, and advances in science and technology, measured by U.S. patents.  Looking at the graphs above, you wouldn't even know anything of economic significance happened in the last few years - certainly nothing that materially affected patent activity.

Our "ultimate resource" - America's human resources,  human capital and entrepreneurial talent - are still strong, and the vitality and dynamism of the U.S. economy will prevail.  The U.S. economy has experienced 33 recessions since around the time of the Civil War, and has successfully emerged after each one into a new cycle of growth and expansion, and there's no reason that this last recession and the current expansion will be any different.  Judging by the ongoing expansion of U.S. patent activity, the future looks very bright, and American exceptionalism will continue to thrive.