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The Meaning of Patent Citations: Report on the NBER/Case-Western Reserve Survey of Patentees

  • Adam B. Jaffe
  • Manuel Trajtenberg
  • Michael S. Fogarty

A survey of recent patentees was conducted to elicit their perceptions regarding the importance of their inventions, the extent of their communication with other inventors, and the relationship of both importance and communication to observed patent citations. A cohort of 1993 patentees were asked specifically about 2 patents that they had cited, and a third placebo' patent that was similar but which they did not cite. One of the two cited inventors was also surveyed. We find that inventors report significant communication, at least some of which is in forms that suggests spillovers from the cited inventor to the citing inventor. The perception of such communication was substantively and statistically significantly greater for the cited patents than for the placebos. There is, however, a large amount of noise in citations data; it appears that something like one-half of all citations do not correspond to any perceived communication, or even necessarily to a perceptible technological relationship between the inventions. We also find a significant correlation between the number of citations a patent received and its importance (both economic and technological) as perceived by the inventor.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7631.

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Date of creation: Apr 2000
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Publication status: published as Jaffe, Adam B., Manuel Trajtenberg and Michael S. Fogarty. "KNowledge Spillovers And Patent Citations: Evidence From A Survey Of Inventors," American Economic Review, 2000, v90(2,May), 215-218.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7631
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  1. Susan Helper, 2000. "Economists and Field Research: "You Can Observe a Lot Just by Watching."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 228-232, May.
  2. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson, 1992. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," NBER Working Papers 3993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jean O. Lanjouw & Mark Schankerman, 1999. "The Quality of Ideas: Measuring Innovation with Multiple Indicators," NBER Working Papers 7345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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