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Patent overlay mapping: Visualizing technological distance



This paper presents a new global patent map that represents all technological categories and a method to locate patent data of individual organizations and technological fields on the global map. This overlay map technique may support competitive intelligence and policy decision making. The global patent map is based on similarities in citing-to-cited relationships between categories of the International Patent Classification (IPC) of European Patent Office (EPO) patents from 2000 to 2006. This patent data set, extracted from the PATSTAT database, includes 760,000 patent records in 466 IPC-based categories. We compare the global patent maps derived from this categorization to related efforts of other global patent maps. The paper overlays the nanotechnology-related patenting activities of two companies and two different nanotechnology subfields on the global patent map. The exercise shows the potential of patent overlay maps to visualize technological areas and potentially support decision making. Furthermore, this study shows that IPC categories that are similar to one another based on citing-to-cited patterns (and thus close in the global patent map) are not necessarily in the same hierarchical IPC branch, thereby revealing new relationships between technologies that are classified as pertaining to different (and sometimes distant) subject areas in the IPC scheme.