Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 977–1002 | Cite as

Worldwide nanotechnology development: a comparative study of USPTO, EPO, and JPO patents (1976–2004)

  • Xin LiEmail author
  • Yiling Lin
  • Hsinchun Chen
  • Mihail C. Roco


To assess worldwide development of nanotechnology, this paper compares the numbers and contents of nanotechnology patents in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO), and Japan Patent Office (JPO). It uses the patent databases as indicators of nanotechnology trends via bibliographic analysis, content map analysis, and citation network analysis on nanotechnology patents per country, institution, and technology field. The numbers of nanotechnology patents published in USPTO and EPO have continued to increase quasi-exponentially since 1980, while those published in JPO stabilized after 1993. Institutions and individuals located in the same region as a repository’s patent office have a higher contribution to the nanotechnology patent publication in that repository (“home advantage” effect). The USPTO and EPO databases had similar high-productivity contributing countries and technology fields with large number of patents, but quite different high-impact countries and technology fields after the average number of received cites. Bibliographic analysis on USPTO and EPO patents shows that researchers in the United States and Japan published larger numbers of patents than other countries, and that their patents were more frequently cited by other patents. Nanotechnology patents covered physics research topics in all three repositories. In addition, USPTO showed the broadest representation in coverage in biomedical and electronics areas. The analysis of citations by technology field indicates that USPTO had a clear pattern of knowledge diffusion from highly cited fields to less cited fields, while EPO showed knowledge exchange mainly occurred among highly cited fields.


Patent citations Patent analysis Information visualization Self-organizing maps Nanoscale science and engineering Nanotechnology Research and development (R&D) Technological innovation 



This research is supported by the following awards: National Science Foundation: “Intelligent Patent Analysis for Nanoscale Science and Engineering,” IIS-0311652; “Mapping Nanotechnology Development,” DMI-0533749; and “Worldwide Nanotechnology Development: A Comparative Study of Global Patents” CMMI-0654232. The last co-author was supported by the Directorate for Engineering, NSF. We would like to thank USPTO, EPO, and JPO for making their databases available for research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xin Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yiling Lin
    • 1
  • Hsinchun Chen
    • 1
  • Mihail C. Roco
    • 2
  1. 1.Artificial Intelligence Lab, Department of Management Information Systems, Eller College of ManagementThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.National Science FoundationArlingtonUSA

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