Law and the Science of Networks: An Overview and an Application to the 'Patent Explosion'

70 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2007  

Katherine J. Strandburg

New York University School of Law

Gabor Csardi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Kalamazoo College

Jan Tobochnik

Kalamazoo College

Peter Erdi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Kalamazoo College

Laszlo Zalanyi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Kalamazoo College

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Abstract

The past few years have seen an explosion of interest in "network science" in fields from physics to sociology. The nodes and links of networks may be a group of individuals linked by friendship; a group of computers linked by network cables; a system of roads or airline flights - or another of a virtually limitless variety of systems of connected "things." This Article first introduces network science and argues that it can provide new conceptual and empirical approaches to legal questions because of its focus on analyzing the effects of patterns of relationships on collective behavior.

The Article then illustrates the network approach by describing an empirical study of the network created by patents and the citations between them. Burgeoning patenting has raised concerns about patent quality, reflected in proposed legislation and in renewed Supreme Court attention to patent law. Our network study finds that, since the late 1980s, the disparity in likelihood of citation between the most "citable" and least "citable" patents has grown, suggesting that the least citable patents may represent increasingly trivial inventions. One possible explanation of this increasing stratification is increasing reliance by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on the widely criticized "motivation or suggestion to combine" test for nonobviousness, which is at issue in the case of KSR v. Teleflex, currently pending at the Supreme Court. We also discuss how network science may be employed to address other issues of patent law.

Keywords: network, patent, complexity, intellectual property

JEL Classification: C45, K00, O31, O34

Suggested Citation

Strandburg, Katherine J. and Csardi, Gabor and Tobochnik, Jan and Erdi, Peter and Zalanyi, Laszlo, Law and the Science of Networks: An Overview and an Application to the 'Patent Explosion'. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Vol. 21, p. 1293, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=958949

Katherine J. Strandburg (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Gabor Csardi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences ( email )

Orszaghaz utca 30.
Budapest, H-1502
Hungary

Kalamazoo College ( email )

1200 Academy Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
United States

Jan Tobochnik

Kalamazoo College ( email )

1200 Academy Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
United States

Peter Erdi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences ( email )

Orszaghaz utca 30.
Budapest, H-1502
Hungary

Kalamazoo College ( email )

1200 Academy Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
United States

Laszlo Zalanyi

Hungarian Academy of Sciences ( email )

Orszaghaz utca 30.
Budapest, H-1502
Hungary

Kalamazoo College ( email )

1200 Academy Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
United States

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