Patents are typically characterized as very valuable assets for firms. Nevertheless, there are many patents in a firm's portfolio that are actually never used. In this paper, we claim that there is a relationship between a firm's decision to use or not to use a patent and the characteristics of the underlying invention. We characterize patent use according to the sleeping or non-sleeping character of the patents in the firm's portfolio. We characterize the underlying invention along different dimensions captured by the patent, i.e. importance, strategic fit, scope and innovativeness. We perform an empirical analysis on a set of patent-active firms in the chemicals industry that trade some of their patents through what is currently the only website specialized in firm technology transfer through the Internet, yet2.com. We use The NBER Patent Citations Data File to obtain information about the patents granted to these firms. Our results suggest that sleeping patents are more innovative, broader and no less important than their counterparts. We conclude that such patents are worth waking up, especially when the underlying invention is applicable to business areas far away from the patentholder's strategic core. These results suggest that there is potential for markets for technology to develop.
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