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Close to You? Bias and Precision in Patent-Based Measures of Technological Proximity

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  • Mary Benner
  • Joel Waldfogel

Abstract

Patent data have been widely used in research on technological innovation to characterize firms' locations as well as the proximities among firms in knowledge space. Researchers could measure proximity among firms with a variety of measures based on patent class data, including Euclidean distance, correlation, and angle between firms' patent class distributions. Alternatively, one could measure proximity using overlap in cited patents. We point out that measures of proximity based on small numbers of patents are imprecisely measured random variables. Measures computed on samples with few patents generate both biased and imprecise measures of proximity. We explore the effects of larger sample sizes and coarser patent class breakdowns in mitigating these problems. Where possible, we suggest that researchers increase their sample sizes by aggregating years or using all of the listed patent classes on a patent, rather than just the first.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13322.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
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Publication status: published as Benner, Mary & Waldfogel, Joel, 2008. "Close to you? Bias and precision in patent-based measures of technological proximity," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(9), pages 1556-1567, October.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13322

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  1. Hall, B. & Jaffe, A. & Trajtenberg, M., 2001. "The NBER Patent Citations Data File: Lessons, Insights and Methodological Tools," Papers 2001-29, Tel Aviv.
  2. Jaeyong Song & Paul Almeida & Geraldine Wu, 2003. "Learning--by--Hiring: When Is Mobility More Likely to Facilitate Interfirm Knowledge Transfer?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(4), pages 351-365, April.
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  7. Constance E. Helfat, 1994. "Evolutionary Trajectories in Petroleum Firm R&D," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 40(12), pages 1720-1747, December.
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Cited by:
  1. McNamee, Robert C., 2013. "Can’t see the forest for the leaves: Similarity and distance measures for hierarchical taxonomies with a patent classification example," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 855-873.
  2. Nemet, Gregory F., 2012. "Inter-technology knowledge spillovers for energy technologies," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 1259-1270.
  3. Alvaro Escribano & Szabolcs Blazsek, 2012. "Patents, secret innovations and firm's rate of return : differential effects of the innovation leader," Economics Working Papers we1202, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Economía.
  4. Marcela Miozzo & Lori DiVito & Panos Desyllas, 2011. "Cross-border acquisitions of science-based firms: Their effect on innovation in the acquired firm and the local science," DRUID Working Papers 11-17, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  5. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Jialan Wang, 2008. "Superstar Extinction," NBER Working Papers 14577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Carayannopoulos, Sofy & Auster, Ellen R., 2010. "External knowledge sourcing in biotechnology through acquisition versus alliance: A KBV approach," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 254-267, March.
  7. Davide Castellani & Giulio Giangaspero & Antonello Zanfei, 2013. "Heterogeneity and distance. Some propositions on how differences across regions, firms and functions affect the role of distance in FDI location decisions," Working Papers 1308, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Department of Economics, Society & Politics - Scientific Committee - L. Stefanini & G. Travaglini, revised 2013.
  8. Nicholas, Tom, 2011. "The origins of Japanese technological modernization," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 272-291, April.
  9. Khoury, Theodore A. & Pleggenkuhle-Miles, Erin G., 2011. "Shared inventions and the evolution of capabilities: Examining the biotechnology industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 943-956, September.
  10. Antonio Messeni Petruzzelli & Daniele Rotolo & Vito Albino, 2014. "Determinants of Patent Citations in Biotechnology: An Analysis of Patent Influence Across the Industrial and Organizational Boundaries," SPRU Working Paper Series 2014-05, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
  11. Nemet, Gregory F. & Johnson, Evan, 2012. "Do important inventions benefit from knowledge originating in other technological domains?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 190-200.
  12. Bar, Talia & Leiponen, Aija, 2012. "A measure of technological distance," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 116(3), pages 457-459.

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