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Patent Valuation Using Citations: A Review and Sensitivity Analysis

Dan Werner EMAIL logo and Huy Dang


As a result of studies demonstrating a correlation between a patent’s value and its forward citation count, patent valuation using forward citations has been increasingly used by practitioners when a patent’s value has not been otherwise established. Although potential limitations of patent citation analysis have been discussed in the past, there is little empirical research demonstrating the sensitivity of estimated patent values to various assumptions embedded within the method. We first summarize an approach that has been used by prior practitioners to estimate the relative value of patents within a portfolio using forward citations, and then perform various analyses to investigate the sensitivity of the approach to certain assumptions. We find that some concerns of prior literature are well-founded, while others are less so. For example, we confirm that biased valuations will result from failure to properly control for patent age and technology. Our analysis also finds that truncation bias is a problem when analyzing recently issued patents, which confirms findings from existing literature. We estimate the rate at which such truncation bias dissipates as patents age and find that the bias for the median patent is reduced to below 10% within five years from the date of publication, although additional variation can remain on an individualized level. Regarding the issue of self-citations, we find that the valuation approach using forward citation analysis can be (but is not always) sensitive to the issue of self-citations, with a median difference of 16.8%. Finally, the valuation approach using forward citation analysis appears to be robust to assumptions underlying patent cohort construction.

JEL Classification: O31; O34; K10; K13

Corresponding author: Dan Werner, NERA Economic Consulting, San Francisco, CA, USA, E-mail:

The views expressed within this article are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the views of NERA Economic Consulting, its clients, or other NERA consultants.


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Received: 2020-10-28
Accepted: 2021-06-15
Published Online: 2021-07-05

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