To help answer those questions, researchers, policy-makers and R&D directors study patent maps, which provide a visual representation of where universities, companies and other organizations are protecting intellectual property produced by their research.
But finding real trends in these maps can be difficult because categories with large numbers of patents – pharmaceuticals, for instance – are usually treated the same as areas with few patents.
Now, a new patent mapping system that considers how patents cite one another may help researchers better understand the relationships between technologies – and how they may come together to spur disruptive new areas of innovation. The system, which also categorizes patents in a new way, was produced by a team of researchers from three universities and an Atlanta-based producer of data-mining software.
"What we are trying to do is forecast innovation pathways," said Alan Porter, professor emeritus in the School of Public Policy and the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the project's principal investigator. "We take data on research and development, such as publications and patents, and we try to elicit some intelligence to help us gain a sense for where things are headed."
Patent maps for major corporations can show where those firms plan to diversify, or conversely, where their technological weaknesses are. Looking at a nation's patent map might also suggest areas where R&D should be expanded to support new areas of innovation, or to fill gaps that may hinder economic growth, he said.
Innovation often occurs at the intersection of major technology sectors, noted Jan Youtie, director of policy research services in Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute. Studying the relationships between different areas can help suggest where the innovation is occurring and what technologies are fueling it. Patent maps can also show how certain disciplines evolve.
"You can see where the portfolio is, and how it is changing," explained Youtie, who is also an adjunct associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy. "In the case of nanotechnology, for example, you can see that most of the patents are in materials and physics, though over time the number of patents in the bio-nano area is growing."
The patent mapping research, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, will be described in a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST). In addition to Youtie and Porter, the research was conducted by former Georgia Tech graduate student Luciano Kay, now a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California Santa Barbara.
"The goal for this research was to create a new type of global patent map that was not tied into existing patent classification systems," Kay said. "We also wanted an approach that would classify patents into categories or clusters in a graphical representation of interrelated technologies even though they may be located in different sections and levels of the standard patent classification."
The International Patent Classification (IPC) system is based on a hierarchy of eight top-level classes such as "human necessity" and "electricity." Patent applications are further classified into 600 or so sub-classes beneath the top-level classes.
Critics note that the IPC brings together technologies such as drugs and hats under the "human necessity" class -- technologies that are not really closely related. The system also puts technologies that are closely related – pharmaceuticals and organic chemistry, for instance – into different classes.
The new Patent Overlay Mapping system does away with this hierarchy, and instead considers the similarity between technologies by noting connections between patents – which ones are cited by other patents.
"We completely disaggregated the patient classification system and looked at all the categories with at least a thousand patents," Youtie explained. "We think our map gets closer to measuring the ideas of technological similarity and distance."
Maps produced by the system provide visual information relating the distances between technologies. The maps can also highlight the density of patenting activity, showing where investments are being made. And they can show gaps where future R&D investments may be needed to provide connections between related technologies.
The researchers produced a series of patent maps by applying their new system to 760,000 patent records filed in the European Patent Office between 2000 and 2006. The data came from the PatSat database, and was analyzed using a variety of tools, including the VantagePoint software developed by Intelligent Information Services Corp. of Norcross, along with Georgia Tech.
One surprise in the work was the interdisciplinary nature of many of the 35 patent factors the researchers identified. For instance, the classification "vehicles" included six of the eight sections defined by the IPC system. Only five of the 35 factors were confined to a single section, Youtie said.
Because the researchers adopted a new classification system, other researchers wanting to follow their approach will have use a thesaurus that translates existing IPC classes to the new system. That conversion system is available online.
In addition to those already mentioned, the research team also included Ismael Rafols of Universitat Politecnica de Valencia in Spain and Nils Newman of Intelligent Information Services Corp.
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (Award No. 0531194) and NSF Award No. 1064146. The research was also undertaken in collaboration with the Center for Nanotechnology in Society, University of California Santa Barbara (NSF Awards No. 0938099 and No. 0531184). The findings and observations contained in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.
John Toon | EurekAlert!
Paper or plastic?
08.07.2016 | University of Toronto
Gearing up for the future: Digital Business Innovation
05.07.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.
Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...
At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.
In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...
Every three years, the plastics industry gathers at K, the international trade fair for plastics and rubber in Düsseldorf. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will also be attending again and presenting many innovative technologies, such as for joining plastics and metals using ultrashort pulse lasers. From October 19 to 26, you can find the Fraunhofer ILT at the joint Fraunhofer booth SC01 in Hall 7.
K is the world’s largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. As in previous years, the organizers are expecting 3,000 exhibitors and more than...
23.09.2016 | Event News
20.09.2016 | Event News
16.09.2016 | Event News
26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences