, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 687-706,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 29 Dec 2009

Trends in worldwide nanotechnology patent applications: 1991 to 2008


Nanotechnology patent applications published during 1991–2008 have been examined using the “title–abstract” keyword search on esp@cenet “worldwide” database. The longitudinal evolution of the number of patent applications, their topics, and their respective patent families have been evaluated for 15 national patent offices covering 98% of the total global activity. The patent offices of the United States (USA), People’s Republic of China (PRC), Japan, and South Korea have published the largest number of nanotechnology patent applications, and experienced significant but different growth rates after 2000. In most repositories, the largest numbers of nanotechnology patent applications originated from their own countries/regions, indicating a significant “home advantage.” The top applicant institutions are from different sectors in different countries (e.g., from industry in the US and Canada patent offices, and from academe or government agencies at the PRC office). As compared to 2000, the year before the establishment of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), numerous new invention topics appeared in 2008, in all 15 patent repositories. This is more pronounced in the USA and PRC. Patent families have increased among the 15 patent offices, particularly after 2005. Overlapping patent applications increased from none in 1991 to about 4% in 2000 and to about 27% in 2008. The largest share of equivalent nanotechnology patent applications (1,258) between two repositories was identified between the US and Japan patent offices.