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The Rush for Patents in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: An Exploration of Patenting Activity at the European Patent Office

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  • Mario BENASSI

    ()

  • Elena GRINZA

    ()

  • Francesco RENTOCCHINI

    ()

Abstract

Despite the increasing interest related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) from practitioners and policy makers, comparatively less attention has come from academia (particularly within the management and economics literature). Our paper aims at filling this gap and provides an in-depth description of the technological trends, geographic distribution, and business-level dynamics of the 4IR in the European Union from patent- and firm-level perspectives. We do so by conducting an empirical assessment of the development of technologies related to the 4IR via the analysis of patents filed at the European Patent Office between 1985 and 2014. We employ a new matched patent-firm data set provided by the Bureau Van Dijk: ORBIS-IP. In line with results from the recent literature, we find evidence of a surge in patenting activity related to the 4IR in the past three decades, particularly in networked devices. Our results also suggest that firms filing 4IR patents have become progressively younger on average. At the same time, we find a steady growth in the average number of 4IR patent applications filed yearly by each company. Further variance decompositions show that the surge in 4IR patent applications is mainly explained by incumbent firms filing more 4IR patent applications over time, rather than new entrants progressively populating the 4IR world. Finally, we uncover a general trend emerging at the firm level, whereby firms tend to specialize in few technological areas and avoid differentiation.

Suggested Citation

  • Mario BENASSI & Elena GRINZA & Francesco RENTOCCHINI, 2019. "The Rush for Patents in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: An Exploration of Patenting Activity at the European Patent Office," Departmental Working Papers 2019-01, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Universit√† degli Studi di Milano.
  • Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2019-01
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    Keywords

    Fourth Industrial Revolution; Industry 4.0; matched patent-firm data; patent applications; EPO;

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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