The authors use the RAND Corporation's predictive patent analytic tools and expertise to understand the technologies in which U.S. entities are leading or lagging behind foreign entities, assess the U.S. industrial base patent landscape, and identify U.S. firms in technology areas of concern that may be targets of foreign acquisition.
Use of Predictive Analytic Tools to Assess Technological Emergences and Acquisition Targets
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- Which countries have historically held and currently hold leadership positions in the technology areas of interest to the Department of the Air Force, as judged by the earliest filing of patents in emerging technology areas?
- Who are the earliest filers of patents in these technology areas?
- Which of these early filers are U.S. companies that possess leading technological capabilities that might make them attractive for foreign investment or acquisition?
The United States has been the international leader in science and technology of importance to national security for three-quarters of a century. However, the development by other nations of their own science and technology capabilities, in concert with and fueled by increasing globalization and connectivity of economic and technological development, has increased competition for technological leadership. The authors use patent filings to analyze the current relative positions of the United States and other countries in selected technology areas of interest to the Department of the Air Force: additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, ceramics, quantum, sensors, and space.
Areas of technological emergence were identified by detecting rapid growth in cumulative patent applications in specific technology areas and whether this occurred in the United States or China. The authors also describe and analyze the patent portfolios of U.S. companies that were early filers in these areas, focusing on small or medium-size companies that were not already owned or controlled by foreign entities; this, in turn, enabled identification of companies that had specific leading technological capabilities that could make them attractive for possible foreign acquisition. The authors propose a method to simultaneously identify connected areas of technological emergence and the companies with leading capabilities in these areas.
- Over the entire period studied (1990–2017), the United States was the leader in far more emergences than any other country.
- In cases in which the United States was the leader and China was the follower, the time difference between leader and follower was substantially greater on average than when China was the leader and the United States was the follower.
- Although the United States remained the overwhelming leader in first emergences, for close emergences since 2001, there was a significant time-dependent shift in the number of early patent applications in the United States versus China.
- Perform a detailed comparison of early filers in the United States and China and assess the relative quality of patent applications and products on the world market from early filers in each country in order to assess the extent to which China is approaching parity with or surpassing the United States in areas of recent close emergence.
- Analyze the development of the U.S. technology network inferred from patent examiner co-assignments over time to identify connections between emergent technological areas (as indicated by these co-assignments) and the companies that are early filers in these connected emergent areas in order to identify the technology areas in which the United States has leading capabilities with broad applications.
Table of Contents
Introduction and Background
Methods for Analyzing Patent Data
International Patenting Trends: A Study of Competition Between the United States and China
Leading Filers in Technology Areas of Interest
Conclusions and Next Steps
Supporting Information on Statistical Methods