Knowledge Base of Software Innovation

Author Name SUZUKI Jun  (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. July 2009 09-J-019
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Although it is often pointed out that the software industry in Japan is not competitive, the development process of the innovation system in this industry has not been fully explored and we do not know whether or not it has any problems. In this study, we conducted an empirical analysis of the knowledge base of the software industry in Japan and the relationship between the knowledge base and the intellectual property system as the building blocks for a sectoral innovation system.

While the number of applications for software-related patents increased rapidly during the 1990s, we were unable to obtain evidence to support the criticism that the sharp increase in the number of applications may lead to an abundance of low-value patents, in light of the examination request rate and the citation rate. The analysis of software-related patents based on the property of applicants and citations showed that the emergence of new technological opportunities, such as video games, had a large impact on the expansion of the knowledge base in the field of software and that new factors were emerging. However, the results suggested that the patent system was used more effectively by existing companies, rather than by emerging companies.

Although the role played by universities in the development of software technologies is considered to be limited in Japan, the data suggests that the knowledge transfer on software technologies from the academic sector (including universities and other public research organizations) is increasing, and that the industrial availability of that knowledge is gradually increasing. Meanwhile, the analysis using the individual data of the RIETI Inventor Survey showed that the construction of direct relationships between companies and academic centers through means such as joint invention and research cooperation with university researchers, and the dispatch and job assignments of researchers to universities, did not necessarily lead to high-value software patents for companies, and that patents borne from these efforts could become rather difficult for relevant companies to use. At the same time, however, the analysis indicated that when looking at the information generated by the academic sector as the knowledge base, it would be possible to obtain high-value patents for the industry if this type of information was used for research.