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Global Patent Map Reveals the Structure of Technological Progress. The Physics arXiv Blog, September 2, 2013.
Today, Luciano Kay at the University of California Santa Barbara and a few pals reveal a new search tool that exploits the structure of links between patents to study the connection between technologies.
In their new approach, Kay and co create a network in which each patent is a node. They assign a link between two nodes if one patent cites another and define the “technological distance” between two areas of the resulting map as the strength of the links between them. So areas of this network are distant if they have few links but close if they have many links.
To test out this approach, Kay and pals have applied it to the entire corpus of patent data from 2000 to 2006 in the European Patent Office. They have also created a tool for visualising and interrogating the map that is available here. (However, at the time of writing, it did not work due to some bugs.)
The resulting patent maps provide a fascinating insight into the structure of the technological landscape and the role of various players within it.
To showcase the new approach’s abilities, Kay and co create the patent map associated with companies such as Samsung, DuPont and IBM. This shows at a glance the areas in which these companies have been working and, of course, the areas they are ignoring.
Kay and pals also show the structure of the patent landscape associated with various technologies such as graphene, nano-biosensors and so on. What this reveals is how different areas of technology are related, sometimes in unexpected ways, and how new topics are emerging.