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The interplay between standardization and technological change: A study on wireless technologies, technological trajectories, and essential patent claims

Rudi Bekkers () and Arianna Martinelli ()

No 10-08, Working Papers from Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies

Abstract: In many technology fields, standardization is the primary method of achieving alignment between actors. Especially if strong network effects and increasing returns are present, the market often ends up with a single standard that dominates the technical direction, activities and search heuristics, for at least one full technology generation. Although literature has addressed such decision processes quite extensively, relatively little attention has been paid to the way in which standards affect - and are affected by - technological change. Building upon the concepts of technological regimes and trajectories (Dosi, 1982), and on the methodology proposed by (Hummon & Doreian, 1989) to empirically investigate such trajectories, this papers aims to study the interplay between standardisation and technological change. We conclude that the empirically derived technological trajectories very well match the standardisation activities and the main technological challenges derived from the engineering literature. Moreover, we also observe that the Hummon & Doreian methodology can indeed reveal technological discontinuities. To the best of our knowledge, this has not been the case in earlier studies using this technology, and refutes concerns that this methodology has a (too) strong bias towards incremental, continuous technological paths. Finally, we compare the set of patents in the most important technological trajectories to the set of so-called essential patent claims at standards bodies, and conclude that there is no significant relationship. This confirms earlier arguments that essential patents are not necessarily ‘important’ patents in a technical sense.

Keywords: technological trajectories; standardization; innovation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010-09, Revised 2010-09
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