IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Obtaining a Sustainable Competitive Advantage from Patent Information: A Patent Analysis of the Graphene Industry


  • Xi Yang

    () (School of Management, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China
    School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
    Center of Knowledge Innovation and Intellectual Property Research, Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu 610031, China)

  • Xiang Yu

    () (School of Management, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China)

  • Xin Liu

    () (Center of Knowledge Innovation and Intellectual Property Research, Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu 610031, China
    School of Public Affairs and Law, Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu 610031, China)


Graphene serves as the most disruptive material in the twenty-first century and plays an unsubstitutable role in solving the sustainable development problems of energy crises, water shortages, and environmental pollution. Recently, obtaining a sustainable competitive advantage (SCA) in the field of graphene has gained increasing attention from both researchers and practitioners. However, few attempts have been made to summarize the SCA of this field by applying patent information. Basing on a patent-based multi-level perspective (MLP), this study aims to develop an approach to identify SCA in the target technological area by conducting a patent review from the comprehensive perspectives of the macro landscape, meso socio-technical system, and micro niches, and then integrate patent analysis with technology life cycle (TLC) theory to examine patents involving global technological competition. The effectiveness of the approach is verified with a case study on graphene. The results show that the graphene field is an emerging and fast-growing technological field, with an increasing number of patents over the year. The TLC of graphene technology demonstrated an approximate S shape, with China, the U.S., Korea, and Japan filing the largest number of graphene patents. Evidenced by Derwent Manual Codes, we found an increase in consideration given to technological application and material preparation topics over time, and research hotspots and fronts that have SCA. In terms of a leading country or region with SCA, the U.S., with a high foreign patent filing rate, large number of high forward citation patents, strong assignees’ competitive position, and large number of high-strength patents, was still the most powerful leader, with a higher SCA in the graphene industry. Korea also obtained a relatively higher SCA and will be a promising competitor in this field. Although China was shown to be catching-up very rapidly in the total number of graphene patents, the apparent innovation gaps in the foreign patent filing rate, high value patents, and Industry-University-Research Collaboration will obviously hamper Chinese catch-up efforts for obtaining SCA. As for patentees, the most powerful leaders with a higher SCA represented by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, International Business Machines Corp, and Nanotek Instruments Inc were identified. In addition, most of the high strength patents were owned by the above patentees. Further, valuable contributions to the understanding of SCA in graphene technology were summarized. First, the proposed patent-based MLP provides a new and comprehensive analytical framework for review research, as well as SCA analysis, and extends its research perspectives. Second, it introduces patent indicators to the previous MLP model, and provides a new theoretical perspective for the study of technological innovation in the previous MLP model. Third, this paper employs the TLC theory to explore the dynamic SCA in the given technology field, which further develops the concept of the MLP model from the temporal dimension. Finally, future research directions were demonstrated. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first systematic review of this field using patent analysis, comprehensively acknowledging the current technological competition and development in the graphene field and that of the future, and can be applied to various other emerging technology fields.

Suggested Citation

  • Xi Yang & Xiang Yu & Xin Liu, 2018. "Obtaining a Sustainable Competitive Advantage from Patent Information: A Patent Analysis of the Graphene Industry," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(12), pages 1-25, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:12:p:4800-:d:190955

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Goio Etxebarria & Mikel Gomez-Uranga & Jon Barrutia, 2012. "Tendencies in scientific output on carbon nanotubes and graphene in global centers of excellence for nanotechnology," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 91(1), pages 253-268, April.
    2. Hong-Hua Qiu & Jing Yang, 2018. "An Assessment of Technological Innovation Capabilities of Carbon Capture and Storage Technology Based on Patent Analysis: A Comparative Study between China and the United States," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(3), pages 1-20, March.
    3. Chaomei Chen, 2006. "CiteSpace II: Detecting and visualizing emerging trends and transient patterns in scientific literature," Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 57(3), pages 359-377, February.
    4. Seokbeom Kwon & Alan Porter & Jan Youtie, 2016. "Navigating the innovation trajectories of technology by combining specialization score analyses for publications and patents: graphene and nano-enabled drug delivery," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 106(3), pages 1057-1071, March.
    5. M. Shakaib Akram & M. Awais Shakir Goraya & Aneela Malik & Amer M. Aljarallah, 2018. "Organizational Performance and Sustainability: Exploring the Roles of IT Capabilities and Knowledge Management Capabilities," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(10), pages 1-20, October.
    6. Geels, Frank W. & Schot, Johan, 2007. "Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 399-417, April.
    7. Geels, Frank W., 2012. "A socio-technical analysis of low-carbon transitions: introducing the multi-level perspective into transport studies," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 471-482.
    8. Small, Henry & Boyack, Kevin W. & Klavans, Richard, 2014. "Identifying emerging topics in science and technology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(8), pages 1450-1467.
    9. Noam Bergman & Alex Haxeltine & Lorraine Whitmarsh & Jonathan Köhler & Michel Schilperoord & Jan Rotmans, 2008. "Modelling Socio-Technical Transition Patterns and Pathways," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 11(3), pages 1-7.
    10. Comanor, William S & Scherer, Frederic M, 1969. "Patent Statistics as a Measure of Technical Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(3), pages 392-398, May/June.
    11. Harhoff, Dietmar & Scherer, Frederic M. & Vopel, Katrin, 2003. "Citations, family size, opposition and the value of patent rights," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1343-1363, September.
    12. Scherer, F. M. & Harhoff, Dietmar, 2000. "Technology policy for a world of skew-distributed outcomes," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4-5), pages 559-566, April.
    13. Geels, Frank W., 2002. "Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(8-9), pages 1257-1274, December.
    14. Sandner, Philipp G. & Block, Joern, 2011. "The market value of R&D, patents, and trademarks," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 969-985, September.
    15. Li Tang & Philip Shapira & Jan Youtie, 2015. "Is there a clubbing effect underlying Chinese research citation Increases?," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 66(9), pages 1923-1932, September.
    16. Peng Hui Lv & Gui-Fang Wang & Yong Wan & Jia Liu & Qing Liu & Fei-cheng Ma, 2011. "Bibliometric trend analysis on global graphene research," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 88(2), pages 399-419, August.
    17. Geels, Frank W. & Kern, Florian & Fuchs, Gerhard & Hinderer, Nele & Kungl, Gregor & Mylan, Josephine & Neukirch, Mario & Wassermann, Sandra, 2016. "The enactment of socio-technical transition pathways: A reformulated typology and a comparative multi-level analysis of the German and UK low-carbon electricity transitions (1990–2014)," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(4), pages 896-913.
    18. Chuanpeng Yu & Zhengang Zhang & Chunpei Lin & Yenchun Jim Wu, 2017. "Knowledge Creation Process and Sustainable Competitive Advantage: the Role of Technological Innovation Capabilities," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(12), pages 1-16, December.
    19. Haupt, Reinhard & Kloyer, Martin & Lange, Marcus, 2007. "Patent indicators for the technology life cycle development," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 387-398, April.
    20. Whitmarsh, Lorraine, 2012. "How useful is the Multi-Level Perspective for transport and sustainability research?," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 483-487.
    21. V. K. Gupta, 1999. "Technological trends in the area of fullerenes using bibliometric analysis of patents," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 44(1), pages 17-31, January.
    22. Cho, Han Pil & Lim, Hyunsu & Lee, Dongmin & Cho, Hunhee & Kang, Kyung-In, 2018. "Patent analysis for forecasting promising technology in high-rise building construction," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 144-153.
    23. Guifeng Liu, 2013. "Visualization of patents and papers in terahertz technology: a comparative study," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 94(3), pages 1037-1056, March.
    24. Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2002. "Patents, Real Options and Firm Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages 97-116, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Nguyen, Ai Linh & Liu, Wenyuan & Khor, Khiam Aik & Nanetti, Andrea & Cheong, Siew Ann, 2020. "The golden eras of graphene science and technology: Bibliographic evidences from journal and patent publications," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 14(4).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Canitez, Fatih, 2019. "Pathways to sustainable urban mobility in developing megacities: A socio-technical transition perspective," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 319-329.
    2. Fjalar J. De Haan & Briony C. Rogers, 2019. "The Multi-Pattern Approach for Systematic Analysis of Transition Pathways," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(2), pages 1-30, January.
    3. Svensson, Oscar & Nikoleris, Alexandra, 2018. "Structure reconsidered: Towards new foundations of explanatory transitions theory," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 462-473.
    4. Nilsson, Måns & Nykvist, Björn, 2016. "Governing the electric vehicle transition – Near term interventions to support a green energy economy," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 1360-1371.
    5. Nihit Goyal & Michael Howlett, 2018. "Technology and Instrument Constituencies as Agents of Innovation: Sustainability Transitions and the Governance of Urban Transport," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(5), pages 1-14, May.
    6. Turnheim, Bruno & Nykvist, Björn, 2019. "Opening up the feasibility of sustainability transitions pathways (STPs): Representations, potentials, and conditions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 775-788.
    7. Sunio, Varsolo & Gaspay, Sandy & Guillen, Marie Danielle & Mariano, Patricia & Mora, Regina, 2019. "Analysis of the public transport modernization via system reconfiguration: The ongoing case in the Philippines," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 1-19.
    8. Capellán-Pérez, Iñigo & Campos-Celador, Álvaro & Terés-Zubiaga, Jon, 2018. "Renewable Energy Cooperatives as an instrument towards the energy transition in Spain," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 215-229.
    9. Child, Michael & Breyer, Christian, 2017. "Transition and transformation: A review of the concept of change in the progress towards future sustainable energy systems," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 11-26.
    10. Maria Isabella Leone & Raffaele Oriani & Toke Reichstein, 2015. "How much are flexibility and uncertainty worth in patent licensing?," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 42(4), pages 371-394, December.
    11. Moradi, Afsaneh & Vagnoni, Emidia, 2018. "A multi-level perspective analysis of urban mobility system dynamics: What are the future transition pathways?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 231-243.
    12. Roesler, Tim & Hassler, Markus, 2019. "Creating niches – The role of policy for the implementation of bioenergy village cooperatives in Germany," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 95-101.
    13. Jano-Ito, Marco A. & Crawford-Brown, Douglas, 2016. "Socio-technical analysis of the electricity sector of Mexico: Its historical evolution and implications for a transition towards low-carbon development," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 567-590.
    14. Nicolas van Zeebroeck, 2011. "The puzzle of patent value indicators," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(1), pages 33-62.
    15. Wesseling, Joeri H. & Bidmon, Christina & Bohnsack, René, 2020. "Business model design spaces in socio-technical transitions: The case of electric driving in the Netherlands," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 154(C).
    16. Hirschhorn, Fabio & Paulsson, Alexander & Sørensen, Claus H. & Veeneman, Wijnand, 2019. "Public transport regimes and mobility as a service: Governance approaches in Amsterdam, Birmingham, and Helsinki," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 178-191.
    17. Barton, John & Davies, Lloyd & Dooley, Ben & Foxon, Timothy J. & Galloway, Stuart & Hammond, Geoffrey P. & O’Grady, Áine & Robertson, Elizabeth & Thomson, Murray, 2018. "Transition pathways for a UK low-carbon electricity system: Comparing scenarios and technology implications," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 82(P3), pages 2779-2790.
    18. Defeuilley, Christophe, 2019. "Energy transition and the future(s) of the electricity sector," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 97-105.
    19. Chapman, Andrew J. & Itaoka, Kenshi, 2018. "Energy transition to a future low-carbon energy society in Japan's liberalizing electricity market: Precedents, policies and factors of successful transition," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 81(P2), pages 2019-2027.
    20. Ki Hong Kim & Young Jae Han & Sugil Lee & Sung Won Cho & Chulung Lee, 2019. "Text Mining for Patent Analysis to Forecast Emerging Technologies in Wireless Power Transfer," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(22), pages 1-24, November.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:12:p:4800-:d:190955. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (XML Conversion Team). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.