Patent citations have become an acceptable proxy for inventions’ quality. Our study offers the first systematic exploration of uncited patents. Analyzing data on all US patents issued between 1976 and 2008, we examine the ratio of uncited patents out of all patents granted each year. We find a robust pattern, consistent across technological fields, whereby the percentage of uncited patents declined between 1976 and the mid-1990s, but has been significantly increasing since then. We discuss policy implications of these findings and suggest that the ratio of uncited patents can serve as a complementary measure for evaluating the patent system.
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- Big data
- Negative knowledge
- Patent citations
- Patent quality
- Uncited patents