Patent thicket, exploration and exploitation in electric vehicles (1976-2012)

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2015)


electric vehicles, invention, patent thickets


Learning activities of exploration and exploitation (March, 1991) in the automotive sector are generally considered as a learning problem localized and restricted to the enterprise level. However, since the inventive activity is the expression and result of the capabilities of a growing population and heterogeneous agents (Arthur, 2009, 2014), this article studies, from the perspective of the agent population, the role of patents, to inhibit inventive step (exploration / exploitation) associated with the design and development of electric vehicles.

Therefore, our paper: i) provides evidence of the existence of patent thickets (Shapiro, 2001) leading to possible under-utilization of knowledge, or tragedy of the anti-commons (Heller, 1989, 1998, 2008). We use the technique of the hierarchical clustering of technological classes (USPTO) of patents related to electric vehicles for the period 1976-2012. With this technique: i) technological evolution of inventive activity associated with electric vehicles is reconstructed; ii) the main areas of knowledge are identified, and; iii) the agents configuration in the system is analyzed . With these quantitative evidences it is proved that in the technological evolution of this system there is an simultaneous exploration/exploitation dynamic that leads to the problem of patents thickets

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