Saturday, December 7, 2013

12. Technology Based Indicators P- 07. Informetrics & Scientometrics

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12. Technology Based Indicators

P- 07. Informetrics & Scientometrics *

By :I K Ravichandra Rao,Paper Coordinator

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12. Technology based indicators

12. Technology based indicators

P- 07. Informetrics & Scientometrics *


  • Patent – understanding the basic concept
  • Patent and its role as technology indicator
  • What can we measure from patents
  • Patent based indicators.


Technology based indicators: Primarily Patent and Standard
Patent is identified as a most important technology indicator as it provides a very good ‘proxy’ to technology development than other indicators. Patent is a legal document that gives the holder property right to the invention which is claimed. Patent provides a detailed description of the technology for which protection is claimed and thus acts as a very good source of identifying technology development.
Standard is another indicator which is gaining in importance as technology indicator. A technology standard can be viewed as “a set of specifications to which all elements of products, processes, formats, or procedures under its jurisdiction must conform”. Particularly in ICT (Information Communication Technology) standards are playing an important role in defining technological competency. But standard is still in early stages of being used as technology indicator because of its complexity, not available in a systematic/organised manner and uncertainty of its proper relationship with technology.

The module will restrict itself to patent.

Salient Aspect of Patent /patenting System

  • A patent is a document granting the right to exclude anyone else from the production or use of a specific invention for a stated number of years.  Patent is granted for twenty years from the date of filing of the patent.  There is no world-wide patent; patent is to be filed in a country patent office in which protection for invention is sought.
  • The purpose of the patent system is to encourage invention and technical progress by providing temporary monopoly power to the inventor and, on the other hand, by forcing the early disclosure of the invention.
  • Major patent offices: Europe: European Patent Office (EPO); United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO); Japan Patent Office (JPO). The patents filed in these three patent offices together are called Triadic patent. The patent profile of the three patent office broadly indicates the technology trend globally.
TRIADIC PATENTS = covers patents which have been simultaneously filed in the EPO, USPTO, and JPO
  • The grant is issued to the inventor after an examination that focuses on both the novelty (primarily the check is no prior-art is visible which covers the invention for which protection is sought), non-obviousness (inventiveness i.e. should not be obvious in other words a certain amount of creativity/ingenuity has been involved in the whole process) and   utility of the invention.

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The above is a typical patent document of the US patent office. The general structures of patent document of different patent offices largely resemble this structure.
Information content of patent document---
  • Information related to the history of the application: Priority date and country of priority (date of first filing world-wide); Date of filing in the country concerned; Date of grant; Countries in which protection being sought; Date of publication (18 months after grant); Type of patent 
  • Information related to the development of the invention: The list of inventors (individuals), their address and country of residence; the legal owners of the patent
  • Information related to the technical features of the invention: The list of ‘claims’ describes the innovative content of the given invention thus defining the patent’s field of coverage; The technical classification to which the patent belongs (IPC code[1]); Cited patents (each patent lists prior art relevant to the invention, which is usually described in other patents); Scientific papers cited[2]

[1] For details of IPC refer next section and website:
[2] For details related to citations refer next section

The International Patent Classification

The International Patent Classification (IPC), provides a hierarchical system of language independent symbols for the classification of patents and utility models according to the different areas of technology to which they pertain. In order to keep the IPC up to date, it is continuously revised and a new version is regularly published.
Retrieval System: Mainly for inventions claimed and some significant information available in description; Addresses each technical object to which a patent relates; A combined function/application classification system in which the function takes precedence; A Tiered Structure: Sections, Classes, Subclasses, Groups and Subgroups;
Analytical Applications of IPC: Identification of technical classes to which a patent belong, group patents which belong to same technical class, group patents covering a sector or link patents to production/trade.
Patent citations (references): References to prior technology, either patents or other scientific literature on which the current patent builds or which it uses. Citations are in two places in a patent document--- examiner citation and citation given by applicants.  Applicant citation is used by the applicant to describe the background of the invention, genesis and provide evidence why   said invention is novel and non-obvious. Along with the requirement to describe the invention properly, applicants provide citations to avoid infringement (limit scope, defense against suits).
Examiner citations have a legal role in judging the novelty and non-obviousness of an invention covered by the patent:
–        if references lead to claim(s), those claim(s) are not approved.
–        If references make the claim/claims obvious, then those claim/claims are not granted.
–        If references make all the claims, then that patent is not granted.
  Examiner citations may cover a large portion of citations given by applicants.
US patent document provides explicit documentation. Examiner citations are in the front page which is used for judging the novelty and inventiveness of the invention. This explicit referencing allows detailed citation analysis of US patent document.
USPTO differs from EPO in citation practice: USPTO-- all relevant citations; EPO-- minimum number needed to cover prior art. In other patent offices such as Indian Patent Office, the citations are generally not explicitly given.

What can we measure from patents?

The level of research and innovation activities: Correlation between R&D and patents
Types of innovations and technological compétences of organizations : The description of patented technologies and the corresponding IPC codes can be used to distinguish between different types of technological innovations. Patents are also a good indicator of the directions of research and of the technological competencies of organizations  (ex: patent portfolios of firms).
Technology strengths of nations: The technological position of nations in a certain area (for ex. nanotechnology or biotechnology) may also be analyzed through patent data. The national patent share in a particular technological field w.r.t. the overall number of patents in that field allows for a ranking of countries.
Technology diffusion: Patent data are available from many different countries and so can be used to track patterns of diffusion. Data on multiple filings of patents (patent family size) can be used as an indirect measure of the value of innovation and of its diffusion across countries.
Sources of innovation and network of innovators: Bibliographic data on patents (identify of the inventor and of the assignee) and joint patent applications can be used to study the sources of innovation and the distribution of patents across organizations (role of collaborations, mapping of networks of innovators).
Technological spillovers and knowledge relatedness: Patent citations can be used as indicators of knowledge flows and spillovers across innovations. To capture the cumulativeness and dynamic character of innovation. 
Importance and novelty of innovation: the importance can be assessed through citations or through expert evaluation.
Science – Technology Linkage : The intensity of references/citations in the patent document to research articles provide indication of the extent of scientific research that have lead to the patent.
Summary: Patents can analyze rate and direction of technical change; An important part in the overall innovation process; Can be visualized as output of industrial R&D; Generated during the whole technology life cycle, they cover basic as well as incremental innovations; The patent data cover virtually every field of technology although exhibiting strong skewness to some fields; Detailed classification in patent documents allows unlimited choice of  aggregation: From basic fields to technology down to single products.

Strenghths: Long historical time series available; publicly available (no secrecy problems); Relatively consistent over time; Classification by technical field is possible; Citation analysis is possible
Some of the Patent based Indicators:
  • Number of Patents Granted by a patent office (say the US Patent Office) to a country/firm/research organisation to identify intensity of technological activity (patent acting as ‘proxy’ for technological activity).
  • Number of patents in a technology class/ in a sector by a country/firm/research organisation identify technological competency. Further normalized to show more accurately the technology competency (see below Relative Technological Advantage)
  • Relative share of country patents w.r.t to world output year-wise (or for a chosen period) to identify country’s technological activity globally.
  • Cites Per Patent: A count of citations received by a company’s patents (for example year-wise or other-wise). The assumption is that Patents that receive more citations are Technological important patents
  • Number of claims: The number of claims provides an indication of the legal breadth of patent protection. It is a sign of the complexity of a patent. One could argue that the breadth and complexity it implies should coincide with value.
  • Number of inventors: This indicator is based on the hypothesis that a patent resulting from the research of several inventors should be more valuable than a patent which was developed by a single inventor.
  • Number of IPC classes: This indicator concerns the scope or breadth of a patent in terms of technology classes.
Technological specialization profile of the countries according to International Patent Classification (IPC) as percentage distribution of patents.
  • Current Impact Index: Measure based on how often a company’s patents are cited by other patents. The number of times a company’s most recent five years of patents are cited in the current year, relative to the entire patent database. It is a synchronous indicator, looking backwards from the current year to the previous five years; thus sensitive to a company’s current technology.
  • Technology Strength: The number of patents times the current impact index (will indicate the technology strength of a company’s newly issued patents).
  • Relative Technological Advantage (RTA): Number of indicators like patent shares, growth rate are used to compare national technological performance but the problem with them is that they do not take into account the different propensity to patent in US among different countries. RTA corrects this bias.

With: Pij = number of patents of firm j in sector i; Pj= number of patents of firm j in all areas; Pi= number of patents of the country in sector I; P=total patents of the country
RTAij greater than one indicates higher activity/specialisation and vice-versa (with respect to the country’s strength). 
  • Technology Cycle Time: The median age of the patent references cited in the company’s new patents.
  • Science linkage: The average number of science papers referenced in the patents provides an indication of linkage between technology and science. Due to detailed availability in the US patent documents this input indicator is generally used for US patent office.
      Scientific Intensity (of a country/firm)  = Number of Patents (of a country or firm) × Science linkage
     Iot can also be used to judge which field is more science intensive than the other
Front page of US Patent

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One of the useful ways to identify patents within a technology field/research areas is through a Three Phase Model (Narin et al. 1993)
i)        Technology Plane itself, where the activity under scrutiny is occurring; ii) A precursor or base plane where earlier, cited research has occurred; iii) a successor citing patents, encompassing new applications or variations of the central technology.
(The lines among the successor, technology, and base planes are very thin; it is one of classification and judgment).
The three planes represent closely related areas. They may also represent particularly in the successor plane, leading indicators of future activity.

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Advantages and disadvantages of patents as a science and technology metric

Strengths and benefits
Weaknesses and problems
  • Patent databases have been in existence for many years.
  • Availability of patent statistics over long period of time allows assessment of technological activity/trend
  • Patent data are relatively easy to manipulate
  • Patent data can be related to other economic/financial measures
  • Patent data have a similar structure as a legal document
  • Contain revealing information
  • Indicate levels of S&T effort
  • Similar items of information facilitate cross industry and even cross national comparison
  • Considered as a link between S&T and firm performance, patents offer an elegant way of establishing such a link
  • Patents are viewed as measures of the knowledge base
  • Patents are viewed as measures of the quality of S&T
  • Patents do not always lead to commercial applications
  • Patents are only a small portion of the actual R&D and S&T effort
  • Patents reveal only selected information about S&T
  • Economic value of patents is highly skewed
  • Propensities to patent varies from one field of technology to another
  • Differences among national patent system.
  • There is a lack of a theory to explain how patents contribute to performance and to strategic advantages
Source: Geisler (2000), author’s own construction

Testing Students Ability

Why patent is a useful indicator of technology activity?
Why citations are important in a patent?
How will you judge importance of a country’s technology strength through patent?
Patent can identify that a particular technology has strong scientific linkage?
Citations given by applicants are used to judge novelty of a patent?
Technology class of a patent is identified through International Patent Classification?


  • Fred Gault. (2007). Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators: The context of change. In Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators in a changing World – Responding to Policy needs, OECD. Pp. 9-23
  • Narin, F (2000). Tech-Line Background Paper. Available at:
  • Narin, F., Smith jr., V. and Albert, M.: 1993, What patents tell you about your competitionChemTech February, 52–59
·         Geisler, E. 2000. The Metrics of Science and Technology, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
·         Moed, H F, Glanzel, W. and Schmoch, U. (2004). Handbook of Quantitative Studies of Science and Technology Research. Kluwer Academic Publishers: The Netherlands.
·         OECD Patent Statistics Manual (2009). Paris: OECD Publishing.  (
·         Van Raan A. F. J. (1988). Handbook of Quantitative Studies of Science and Technology. Elsevier Science publishers R.V: The Netherlands.

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