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The 'Names Game': Harnessing Inventors Patent Data for Economic Research

  • Melamed, Ran
  • Shiff, Gil
  • Trajtenberg, Manuel

The goal of this paper is to lay out a methodology and corresponding computer algorithms, that allow us to extract the detailed data on inventors contained in patents, and harness it for economic research. Patent data has long been used in empirical research in economics, and yet the information on the identity (i.e. the names and location) of the patents’ inventors has seldom been deployed in a large scale, primarily because of the “who is who” problem: the name of a given inventor may be spelled differently across her/his patents, and the exact same name may correspond to different inventors (i.e. the “John Smith” problem). Given that there are over 2 million patents with 2 inventors per patent on average, the “who is who” problem applies to over 4 million “records”, which is obviously too large to tackle manually. We have thus developed an elaborate methodology and computerized procedure to address this problem in a comprehensive way. The end result is a list of 1.6 million unique inventors from all over the world, with detailed data on their patenting histories, their employers, co-inventors, etc. Forty percent of them have more than one patent, and 70,000 have more than 10 patents. We can trace those multiple inventors across time and space, and thus study the causes and consequences of their mobility across countries, regions, and employers. Given the increasing availability of large computerized data sets on individuals, there may be plenty of opportunities to deploy this methodology to other areas of economic research as well.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5833.

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Date of creation: Sep 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5833
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  1. Jaffe, A.B. & Trajtenberg, M., 1992. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," Papers 14-92, Tel Aviv.
  2. Benjamin F. Jones, 2005. "The burden of knowledge and the ‘death of the Renaissance man’: Is innovation getting harder?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  3. Jinyoung Kim & Sangjoon John Lee & Gerald Marschke, 2010. "The Influence of University Research on Industrial Innovation," Discussion Paper Series 1006, Institute of Economic Research, Korea University.
  4. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:108:y:1993:i:3:p:577-98 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2005. "Patents, Citations, and Innovations: A Window on the Knowledge Economy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026260065x, June.
  6. Michael Stolpe, 2001. "Mobility of Research Workers and Knowledge Diffusion as Evidenced in Patent Data The Case of Liquid Crystal Display Technoloy," Kiel Working Papers 1038, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  7. Lori Rosenkopf & Paul Almeida, 2003. "Overcoming Local Search Through Alliances and Mobility," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(6), pages 751-766, June.
  8. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby, 2006. "Movement of Star Scientists and Engineers and High-Tech Firm Entry," NBER Working Papers 12172, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson & Adam Jaffe, 1997. "University Versus Corporate Patents: A Window On The Basicness Of Invention," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(1), pages 19-50.
  10. Hoisl, Karin, 2006. "Tracing Mobile Inventors – The Causality between Inventor Mobility and Inventor Productivity," Discussion Papers in Business Administration 1260, University of Munich, Munich School of Management.
  11. Scherer, F M, 1982. "Inter-Industry Technology Flows and Productivity Growth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(4), pages 627-34, November.
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