Patent mapping in the media
Our recent work on patent mapping has been featured in a number of media outlets. Wired UK, for example, published “Tech's patently clear connections” in its Feb 2014 issue (click image to see).

Source: Kay et al. (2014) / Wired UK

Visualizing innovation pathways and technology development concentrations through global patent maps and patent map overlays1

In Kay et al. “Patent overlay mapping: visualizing technological distance” (online first in JASIST) we present a new approach to visualizing the global innovation landscape as well as a method to locate the patent data of individual organizations, countries and technological fields on the global map.



This method allows us to literally see new relationships between technologies that are classified as pertaining to different (and sometimes distant) subject areas in traditional patent classifications. Overlaying patent maps offer the potential to aid in both business and policy decision-making and to generate competitive intelligence. They also shed light on “technological distance,” or the extent to which a set of patents reflects different types of technologies, which is an important measure of new knowledge-creation and a predictor of innovation opportunities.

These global patent and overlay maps are derived from similarities in citing-to-cited relationships between patent categories of the International Patent Classification (IPC) system. Their development involved the creation of a patent dataset with more than 760,000 patent records in more than 400 IPC categories extracted from the European Patent Office’s PatStat database. A set of algorithms and automation scripts, text mining and network visualization software help to create patent map overlays and benchmark individual companies, countries and technology subfields. To illustrate the kind of analytical support offered by this approach, we present examples of specific companies and technology subfields overlaid onto a global patent map.

Our research team also included Jan Youtie, director of policy research services in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute; principal investigator Alan Porter, professor emeritus at Georgia Tech’s Schools of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Public Policy; Ismael Rafols of Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain; and Nils Newman of Intelligent Information Services Corp.

A pre-print version of Kay et al. “Patent overlay mapping: visualizing technological distance” can be found at

Journal publication now available:

Kay, Luciano; Newman, Nils; Youtie, Jan; Porter, Alan; Rafols, Ismael (2014). "Patent overlay mapping: Visualizing technological distance." Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, Online first [link]

1This research was undertaken largely at Georgia Tech drawing on support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Center for Nanotechnology in Society (Arizona State University; Award No. 0531194); and NSF Award No. 1064146 (“Revealing Innovation Pathways: Hybrid Science Maps for Technology Assessment and Foresight”). Part of this research was also undertaken in collaboration with the Center for Nanotechnology in Society, University of California Santa Barbara (NSF Awards No. 0938099 and No. 0531184). The findings and observations contained in this work are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US National Science Foundation.