The geography of sleeping beauties in patenting: a country-level analysis

M.L. Wuestman, K. Frenken, J. Hoekman, E.M. Mas Tur

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


This study explores sleeping beauties, i.e. breakthrough inventions that experienced delayed recognition, by means of patent data. References in a patent signal the state of the art on which the patent is based, and they can limit the property rights established by its claims. A patent that is cited by many others, thus, includes some technology central to further developments. Patent citations can be used to study patented breakthrough inventions, identifying them as highly cited patents (Singh and Fleming, 2010; Castaldi et al, 2015). We add to this literature by analysing geographical determinants of the occurrence of sleeping beauties. A sleeping beauty is defined as a patent family that is both a sleeper (is not cited for at least x years after its priority date) and highly cited (receives at least x citations). Using this definition, with x=13, the database contains over 3,000 sleeping beauties. We hypothesize that the share of sleeping beauties in the output of a country and the share of sleeping beauties in the total of highly cited patents in a country is higher, the more geographically isolated the country is, reasoning that isolation renders diffusion and acceptance of new (radical) ideas more difficult. Geographical isolation is proxied by the mean geographical distance to all foreign patent inventors, measured both generally and specifically for each general technology class. We take into account the presence of international airports, average travel times, each country’s general proficiency in world languages, and the number of patents within each country, while controlling for technological and author variations across patents. Castaldi C, Frenken K, Los B (2015) Related Variety, Unrelated Variety and Technological Breakthroughs: An analysis of US State-Level Patenting. Regional Studies 49(5):767–781 Singh J, Fleming L (2010) Lone Inventors as Sources of Breakthroughs: Myth or Reality? Management Science 56(1):41–56
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2016
Event2016 Conference on Complex Systems -
Duration: 19 Sep 201622 Sep 2016


Conference2016 Conference on Complex Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'The geography of sleeping beauties in patenting: a country-level analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this