Altmetric Blog

Patents: A new view of impact

Amy Rees, 23rd August 2018

In this post, Amy Rees, Product and Client Support Specialist, and Cat Williams, Chief Operations Officer,  introduce the new attention source tracked by Altmetric. The post covers how Altmetric track patents, how to access the data and the new insights it uncovers.

In April of this year you may have noticed a new colour in the Altmetric donut! The new orange segment represents our newest, and possibly most highly requested source: patent data.  

Adding patent data to our database has provided an entirely different lens through which to explore the potential impacts of research, and gives our users an opportunity to identify where scholarly work has influenced or informed commercial applications.

What is a patent?

Patents are really important in today’s connected world – not just in protecting ideas and copyright, but also in ensuring that our collective knowledge is being distributed and reused as efficiently as possible. Ideas are hardly ever formed in a vacuum, and the best ones are often iterations of previous inventions.

This is very clear from the trends we see in patent records: they often reference other patents, building on innovations already in existence. But that’s not the only place we see patent applications drawing inspiration from; they also regularly cite original published research – using (or in some cases, relying on) the results of academic study to evidence their idea.

Where does Altmetric’s patent data come from?

Altmetric’s patent data is sent from IFI CLAIMS®, via Dimensions. With the largest index of patents in the world, IFI CLAIMS is used by organizations large and small to understand and track patents globally – including the Google Patents index!

The data Altmetric has integrated covers the years from 1994 to 2018 (inclusive), and represents patents from nine different patent offices:

  • World Intellectual Property Organization
  • IP Australia
  • German Patent and Trade Mark Office
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property
  • European Patent Office (EPO)
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office
  • National Industrial Property Institute
  • Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom
  • Netherlands Patent Office


Adding Patents to Altmetric

Integrating patents into Altmetric’s tools is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time – it’s such a powerful source and we knew it would bring some very interesting insights for our users!

We approached the addition of these data in two steps. During the first step, we looked through the reference lists in patents and extracted links to articles and DOIs – resulting in over 800,000 mentions from patents to articles, books and other research outputs being added to the Altmetric database!

After this initial success we were even more excited to see what the addition of applying text mining might bring! Text mining enables us to find mentions even if the article isn’t directly linked to from the patent. Instead, we look for a publication year, page range or volume/issue number and author names to draw out the mentions.

This proved to be a good way forward; adding text mining for patents has resulted in an additional 9 million mentions, all of which can be found via the Explorer and details pages.

Here’s an example of a patent we’ve used text mining to extract a mention from – you can see that although there isn’t a link to the publisher page or DOI record, there is the title, author name, and journal name. Cross-referencing this information with Crossref enables us to figure out which publication the reference is about:

… and here’s how that mention appears on the related details page:

New discoveries

Given all the new information it provides, it’s not surprising that patent data has been regularly requested by Altmetric users! Already we’ve started pulling out some fun facts and figures that are helping us understand exactly how this new data source helps tell the stories around research:

  • The oldest publication referenced in a patent is 204 years old
  • 3,973 patent mentions are to Clinical Trials (historic and ongoing)
  • The publication most referenced by patents to date is “Pharmaceutical Salts”  with a whopping 4,483 mentions!
  • 15,691 patent references in patents are to books and book chapters

And this is just the start of the examples waiting to be discovered…

Try it out today

We hope you’ll enjoy investigating the patent data in Altmetric as much as we have!

To help you get started we’ve created some openly-available resources that you can use to learn more about our work on patents and see how you can make best use of the data:

  1. Watch our webinar announcing patent data available here.
  2. Take a look at our patents 1-pager, which provides some handy tips.
  3. Visit our KnowledgeBase.

For any questions contact us and we’d be happy to help.

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