Patent citation data in social science research: Overview and best practices

The last 2 decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in the use of patent citation data in social science research. Facilitated by digitization of the patent data and increasing computing power, a community of practice has grown up that has developed methods for using these data to: measure attributes of innovations such as impact and originality; to trace flows of knowledge across individuals, institutions and regions; and to map innovation networks. The objective of this article is threefold. First, it takes stock of these main uses. Second, it discusses 4 pitfalls associated with patent citation data, related to office, time and technology, examiner, and strategic effects. Third, it highlights gaps in our understanding and offers directions for future research.


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