The "Names Game": Harnessing Inventors' Patent Data for Economic Research

75 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2006 Last revised: 6 Feb 2022

See all articles by Manuel Trajtenberg

Manuel Trajtenberg

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Gil Shiff

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics

Ran Melamed

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics

Date Written: September 2006

Abstract

The goal of this paper is to lay out a methodology and corresponding computer algorithms, that allow us to extract the detailed data on inventors contained in patents, and harness it for economic research. Patent data has long been used in empirical research in economics, and yet the information on the identity (i.e. the names and location) of the patents' inventors has seldom been deployed in a large scale, primarily because of the "who is who" problem: the name of a given inventor may be spelled differently across her/his patents, and the exact same name may correspond to different inventors (i.e. the "John Smith" problem). Given that there are over 2 million patents with 2 inventors per patent on average, the "who is who" problem applies to over 4 million "records", which is obviously too large to tackle manually. We have thus developed an elaborate methodology and computerized procedure to address this problem in a comprehensive way. The end result is a list of 1.6 million unique inventors from all over the world, with detailed data on their patenting histories, their employers, co-inventors, etc. Forty percent of them have more than one patent, and 70,000 have more than 10 patents. We can trace those multiple inventors across time and space, and thus study the causes and consequences of their mobility across countries, regions, and employers. Given the increasing availability of large computerized data sets on individuals, there may be plenty of opportunities to deploy this methodology to other areas of economic research as well.

Suggested Citation

Trajtenberg, Manuel and Shiff, Gil and Melamed, Ran, The "Names Game": Harnessing Inventors' Patent Data for Economic Research (September 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12479, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=926058

Manuel Trajtenberg (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 39040
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel
+972 3640 9911 (Phone)
+972 3640 9908 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Gil Shiff

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 39040
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel

Ran Melamed

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 39040
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel

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