40 Years of Patent Trends

The text of patent applications is a rich source of data which, indirectly, encodes trends in history, economics, science, and technology (and to some extent, changes in patent law). In this study, trends in the occurrences of words appearing in the titles of patents and patent applications are depicted as an animated word cloud evolving over 40 years (video). Principal component analysis reveals a strong, overarching, 40-year long shift away from words associated with material subject matter and toward the domain of information.

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