Patents as instruments for exploring innovation dynamics: geographic and technological perspectives on “photovoltaic cells”
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The recently developed Cooperative Patent Classifications of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) provide new options for an informed delineation of samples in both USPTO data and the Worldwide Patent Statistical Database (PatStat) of EPO. Among the “technologies for the mitigation of climate change” (class Y02), we zoom in on nine material technologies for photovoltaic cells; and focus on one of them (CuInSe2) as a lead case. Two recently developed techniques for making patent maps with interactive overlays—geographical ones using Google Maps and maps based on citation relations among International Patent Classifications (IPC)—are elaborated into dynamic versions that allow for online animations and comparisons by using split screens. Various forms of animation are discussed. The longitudinal development of Rao-Stirling diversity in the IPC-based maps provided us with a heuristics for studying technological diversity in terms of generations of the technology. The longitudinal patterns are clear in USPTO data more than in PatStat data because PatStat aggregates patent information from countries in different stages of technological development, whereas one can expect USPTO patents to be competitive at the technological edge.