Journal Article

Incidence and growth of patent thickets: The impact of technological opportunities and complexity

Journal of Industrial Economics 61 (3): 521–563
Georg von Graevenitz, Stefan Wagner, Dietmar Harhoff (2013)
Subject(s): Technology, R&D management
Keyword(s): patenting, patent thickets, patent portfolio races, complexity, technological opportunities
JEL Code(s): L13, L20, O34

We analyze incidence and evolution of patent thickets. The paper provides a modeling framework showing how competition for patent portfolios, complementarity of patented technologies and hold-up affect patenting. Predictions are that technological opportunity reduces patenting in complex technologies, while increasing patenting in discrete technologies. Competition has the opposite effects. The predictions are tested using European patent data in a panel with 2,074 patenting firms in thirty technology areas over fifteen years. A new measure of technological complexity is applied. GMM estimation results confirm the predictions of our preferred model. Patent thickets are found in nine out of thirty technology areas.

© 2013 The Editorial Board of The Journal of Industrial Economics and John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Volume 61
Issue 3
Pages 521–563