Incidence and growth of patent thickets: The impact of technological opportunities and complexity

Georg von Graevenitz, Stefan Wagner, Dietmar Harhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


We analyze incidence and evolution of patent thickets. The paper provides a modeling framework showing how competition for patent portfolios, complementarity of patented technologies and hold-up affect patenting. Predictions are that technological opportunity reduces patenting in complex technologies, while increasing patenting in discrete technologies. Competition has the opposite effects. The predictions are tested using European patent data in a panel with 2,074 patenting firms in thirty technology areas over fifteen years. A new measure of technological complexity is applied. GMM estimation results confirm the predictions of our preferred model. Patent thickets are found in nine out of thirty technology areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521–563
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of Industrial Economics
Issue number3
Early online date1 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013

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