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A well-tailored centrality measure for evaluating patents and their citations

Claudia Donato (Avanade, Milan, Italy)
Paolo Lo Giudice (University Mediterranea of Reggio Calabria, Reggio Calabria, Italy)
Roberta Marretta (Accenture, Milan, Italy)
Domenico Ursino (Department of Information Engineering, Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona, Italy)
Luca Virgili (Department of Information Engineering, Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona, Italy)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 21 June 2019




The development of innovations in all the research and development (R&D) fields is leading to a huge increase of patent data. Therefore, it is reasonable to foresee that, in the next future, Big Data-centered techniques will be compulsory to fully exploit the potential of this kind of data. In this context, network analysis-based approaches are extremely promising. The purpose of this paper is to provide a contribution to this setting. In fact, the authors propose a well-tailored centrality measure for evaluating patents and their citations.


The authors preliminarily introduce a suitable support directed network representing patents and their citations. After this, the authors present the centrality measures, namely, “Naive Patent Degree” and “Refined Patent Degree.’” Then, the authors show why they are well tailored to capture the specificities of the patent scenario and why classical centrality measure fails to fully reach this purpose.


The authors present three possible applications of the measures, namely: the computation of a patent “scope” allowing the evaluation of the width and the strength of the influence of a patent on a given R&D field; the computation of a patent lifecycle; and the detection of the so-called “power patents,” i.e., the most relevant patents, and the investigation of the importance, for a patent, to be cited by a power patent.


None of the approaches proposing the application of centrality measures to patent citation networks consider the main peculiarity of this scenario, i.e., that, if a patent pi cites a patent pj, then the value of pi decreases. So, differently from classical scientific paper citation scenario, in this one performing a citation has a cost for the citing entity. This fact is not considered by all the approaches conceived to investigate paper citations. Nevertheless, this feature represents the core of patent citation scenario. The approach has been explicitly conceived to capture this feature.



This work was partially funded by the Department of Information Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Marche under the project “A network-based approach to uniformly extract knowledge and support decision making in heterogeneous application contexts” (RSAB 2018). The authors thank the research center I-CRIOS (the Invernizzi Center for Research on Innovation, Organization and Strategy) of University “Bocconi” of Milan, which provided data for their analysis. The authors also thank Professor Franco Malerba, Professor Roberto Mavilia and Professor Fabio Landini, who helped them very much to understand the innovation management aspects and the implications of the knowledge patterns found by this research.


Donato, C., Lo Giudice, P., Marretta, R., Ursino, D. and Virgili, L. (2019), "A well-tailored centrality measure for evaluating patents and their citations", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 4, pp. 750-772.



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