What’s likely to be the “next big thing?” What might be the most fertile areas for innovation? Where should countries and companies invest their limited research funds? What technology areas are a company’s competitors pursuing?
To help answer those questions, researchers, policy-makers and R&D directors study patent maps, which provide a visual representation of where universities, companies and other organizations are protecting intellectual property produced by their research. But finding real trends in these maps can be difficult because categories with large numbers of patents — pharmaceuticals, for instance — are usually treated the same as areas with few patents.
Phi Beta Iota: This is clever but mis-guided. It perpetuates the present system that creates profit for the few while imposing external diseconomies on the public. As Russel Ackoff would say, this is more of doing the wrong thing righter — a common failure of the Kurzweil / Singularity folks. Where we really need to focus is on the five billion poor, true cost economics, and radcially increaseing our protection of bio-economic systems such as bees and aquifers — systems created over hundreds of thousands of years that will not be replicated in ten to a hundred lifetimes by man.