The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 1070–1096 | Cite as

Knowledge flows from business method software patents: influence of firms’ global social networks

  • Jiaming Jiang
  • Rajeev K. GoelEmail author
  • Xingyuan Zhang


Using patent citations as an indicator of knowledge flows, this paper examines the effects of firms’ global patent social networks on knowledge flows from business method software patents. Patent social networks are considered along several dimensions, including relative centrality, structural equivalence and brokerage roles. Identifying 19,385 software patents applications to the USPTO by 37 countries during 1995–2012, results show that firms positioned with a relative centrality or situated within the same structural equivalent cluster have more citations to their counterpart firms’ patents. Further, among the different brokerage roles, we find positive promotion to knowledge transfer when the citing and cited firms both serve the role of an itinerant as well as that of a gatekeeper/representative, while firms that act as gatekeeper/representative (alone) cite less patents from firms that do not enact this kind of a role. These unique insights provide a better understanding of channels of knowledge transmission and have implications for the pace of technological change.


Business method patents Relative centrality Structural equivalence Brokerage roles Joint patent application Patent citations Knowledge flows Social networks 

JEL Classification

L14 L86 O33 M15 



We would like to thank Al Link for numerous useful comments and suggestions.


  1. Ahuja, G. (2000). Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: A longitudinal study. Administrative Science Quarterly, 45, 425–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apostolato, I.-A. (2013). An overview of software applications for social network analysis. International Review of Social Research, 3, 71–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Audretsch, D. B., Bozeman, B., Combs, K. L., Feldman, M., Link, A. N., Siegel, D. S., et al. (2002). The economics of science and Technology. Journal of Technology Transfer, 27, 155–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bercovitz, J., & Feldman, M. (2011). The mechanisms of collaboration in inventive teams: Composition, social networks, and geography. Research Policy, 40, 81–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bessen, J., & Hunt, R. M. (2007). An empirical look at software patents. Journal of Economics Management Strategy, 16, 157–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burt, R. S. (1987). Social contagion and innovation: Cohesion versus structural equivalence. American Journal of Sociology, 92, 1287–1335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burt, R. S. (1992). Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. CHSRF. (2003). The theory and practice of knowledge brokering in Canada’s Health System. Canadian Health Services Research Foundation Report. Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, December,
  9. Clarkson, G. (2005). Objective identification of patent thickets. University of Michigan Law School Working Paper 1–32.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, W. M. (2004). Patents and appropriation: Concerns and evidence. Journal of Technology Transfer, 30, 57–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Colazo, J. (2010). Collaboration structure and performance in new software development: Findings from the study of open source projects. International Journal of Innovation Management, 14, 735–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cummings, J. N., & Cross, R. (2003). Structural properties of work groups and their consequences for performance. Social Networks, 25, 197–210.Google Scholar
  13. De Prato, G., & Nepelski, D. (2014). Global technological collaboration network: Network analysis of international co-inventions. Journal of Technology Transfer, 39, 358–375.Google Scholar
  14. Elsasser, T. E. (1977). Patents impediment or expedient to technology transfer. Journal of Technology Transfer, 1, 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Freeman, L. C. (1979). Centrality on social networks conceptual clarification. Social Networks, 1, 215–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Friedkin, N. (1998). A structural theory of social influence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Furukawa, Y. (2010). Intellectual property protection and innovation: An inverted-U relationship. Economics Letters, 109, 99–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goel, R. K. (1992). On vertical integration into R&D. Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, 32, 54–59.Google Scholar
  19. Goel, R. K. (1999). Economic models of technological change. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.Google Scholar
  20. Goel, R. K., & Brown, M. A. (1991). Commercializing government—Sponsored computer software. In J. A. Morell & M. Fleischer (Eds.), Advances in the implementation and impact of computer systems (Vol. 1, pp. 267–279). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  21. Goel, R. K., & Nelson, M. A. (2009). Determinants of software piracy: Economics, institutions, and technology. Journal of Technology Transfer, 34, 637–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goel, R. K., & Saunoris, J. W. (2017). Dynamics of knowledge spillovers from patents to entrepreneurship: Evidence across entrepreneurship types. Contemporary Economic Policy, 35, 700–715.Google Scholar
  23. Goel, R. K., Saunoris, J. W., & Zhang, X. (2016). Intranational and international knowledge flows: Effects on the formal and informal sectors. Contemporary Economic Policy, 34, 297–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gould, R. V., & Fernandez, R. M. (1989). Structures of mediation: A formal approach to brokerage in transaction networks. Sociological Methodology, 19, 89–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Graf, H., & Kruger, J. J. (2011). The performance of gatekeepers in innovator networks. Industry and Innovation, 18, 69–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Granovetter, M. (1985). Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91, 481–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hall, B. H. (2007). Patents and patent policy. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 23, 568–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hall, B. H. (2009). Business and financial method patents, innovation, and policy. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 56, 443–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hall, B. H., & Harhoff, D. (2012). Recent research on the economics of patents. Annual Review of Economics, 4, 541–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hall, B. H., Helmers, C., Rogers, M., & Sena, V. (2014). The choice between formal and informal intellectual property: A review. Journal of Economic Literature, 52, 375–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hall, B. H., & MacGarvie, M. (2010). The private value of software patents. Research Policy, 39, 994–1009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hall, B. H., Thoma, G., & Torrisi, S. (2009). Financial patenting in Europe. European Management Review, 6, 45–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hunt, R. M. (2010). Business method patents and U.S. financial services. Contemporary Economic Policy, 28, 322–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jaffe, A. B., & Trajtenberg, M. (1999). International knowledge flows: Evidence from patent citations. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 8, 105–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jaffe, A. B., & Trajtenberg, M. (2002). Patents, citations, and innovations. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Jankowski, J. E. (1999). Trends in academic research spending, alliances, and commercialization. Journal of Technology Transfer, 24, 55–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. La Belle, M. M., & Schooner, H. M. (2014). Big banks and business method patents. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, 16, 431–495.Google Scholar
  38. Lerner, J. (2002). 150 Years of patent protection. American Economic Review, 92, 221–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lerner, J. (2010). The litigation of financial innovations. Journal of Law and Economics, 53, 807–831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Leydesdorff, L., & Vaughan, L. (2006). Co-occurrence matrices and their applications in information science: Extending ACA to the web environment. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57, 1616–1628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Link, A. N., & Ruhm, C. J. (2013). Fathers’ patenting behavior and the propensity of offspring to patent: An intergenerational analysis. Journal of Technology Transfer, 38, 332–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Long, J. C., Cunningham, F. C., & Braithwaite, J. (2013). Bridges, brokers and boundary spanners in collaborative networks: A systematic review. BMC Health Services Research, 13, 158–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. MacGarvie, M. (2006). Do firms learn from international trade? Review of Economics and Statistics, 88, 46–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Maurseth, P. B., & Verspagen, B. (2002). Knowledge spillovers in Europe: A patent citations analysis. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 104, 531–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Minns, S. E. (2014). Innovation, firm strategy and patent litigation. Ph.D. Thesis, University of British Columbia.Google Scholar
  46. Newman, M. E. J. (2010). Networks: An introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Seaman, C., McQuaid, R., & Pearson, M. (2017). Social networking in family businesses in a local economy. Local Economy, 32, 451–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Slob, A. F. L., Rijnveld, M., Chapman, A. S., & Strosser, P. (2007). Challenges of linking scientific knowledge to river basin management policy: AquaTerra as a case study. Environmental Pollution, 148, 867–874.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sternitzke, C., Bartkowski, A., & Schramm, R. (2008). Visualizing patent statistics by means of social network analysis tools. World Patent Information, 30, 115–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. van Kammen, J., de Savigny, D., & Sewankambo, N. (2006). Using knowledge brokering to promote evidence-based policy-making: The need for support structures. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 84, 608–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vonortas, N. S. (2013). Social networks in R&D program evaluation. Journal of Technology Transfer, 38, 577–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wagner, S. (2008). Business method patents in Europe and their strategic use—Evidence from franking device manufacturers. Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 17, 173–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Williamson, O. E. (1975). Markets and hierarchies. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  54. Yamamoto, K. (2003). Agglomeration and growth with innovation in the intermediate goods sector. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 33, 335–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yang, H., Lin, Z. J., & Peng, M. W. (2011). Behind acquisitions of alliance partners: Exploratory learning and network embeddedness. Academy of Management Journal, 54, 1069–1080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Okayama UniversityOkayamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA
  3. 3.Kiel Institute for the World EconomyKielGermany

Personalised recommendations