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Can patent information be used to watch technology trends? To answer this question, we can compare technology trends with patent filings.

 

For some technologies, we see a decrease in patenting activities. Areas like Peptides, Printing and also Biotechnology have shown a decrease in patent filings over the period from 2000 to 2010. The best way to watch these filing trends is using classifications (although not 100% complete of course). For Peptides (C07K), Printing (B41) and Biotechnology (C12N) we see a decrease of 50%, 20% and 15% respectively.

 

Looking to some fast growing areas in view of patent filings, a growing trend is visible in Lighting, Smoking and Earth or rock drilling with a 330%, 305% and 145% increase over the above mentioned 10 years period. However, we have to be careful in drawing conclusions. Are these figures reliable? The simple answer is no.

 

To come to more reliable conclusions you have to have more details. For example, it is found that more than 30% of the publications related to smoking (A24) are from one Russian inventor. This has a big impact on the figures and can lead to completely wrong conclusions.

 

Interesting figures can be retrieved for the “real” new technologies:

 

3D printing
The filing trend in 3D printing by using a “simple” search strategy shows a 100% increase in 2012 over 2011. Interesting to see is how this areas has grown in 2012. For sure this will continue for 2013.

 

Green energy
Another areas is Green Energy related to Solar and Wind power.
Here we also see a fast growing tendency in patent filings, although this area is already of interest for a longer period. Since 2009 a high volume of filings took place, with a 400% growth over the years since 2005. From 2009 onwards this is a very active area.

 

Tsunami Warning systems
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, 26 December 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. An increase in patent filings can be seen for Tsunami warning systems afterwards. Surprisingly, it took until 2008 before an increase in patent filings is visible.

 

In conclusion: one can say that patent filings are a good indicator for technology trends and that the fillings can be used as a monitor. However some more details need to be investigated before correct conclusions can be drawn.

Aalt van de Kuilen

Senior Patent Information Specialist in the field of Life Sciences and Chemistry. Read more about the background and expertise of Aalt van de Kuilen.