This article decomposes the R&D-patent relationship at the industry level to shed light on the sources of the worldwide surge in patent applications. The empirical analysis is based on a unique data set that includes five patent indicators computed for 18 industries in 19 countries covering the period from 1987 to 2005. The analysis shows that variations in patent applications reflect not only variations in research productivity but also variations in the appropriability and filing strategies adopted by firms. The results also suggest that the patent explosion observed in several patent offices can be attributed to the greater globalization of intellectual property rights rather than to a surge in research productivity. Â© The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Associazione ICC. All rights reserved.