Much of the research on networks using patent data focuses on citations and the collaboration networks of inventors, hence regarding patents as a positive sign of invention. However, patenting is, most importantly, a strategic action used by companies to compete with each other. This study sheds light on inter-organisational adversarial relationships in patenting for the first time. We constructed and analysed the network of companies connected via patent opposition relationships that occurred between 1980 and 2018. A majority of the companies are directly or indirectly connected to each other and hence form the largest connected component. We found that, in the network, many companies disapprove patents in various industrial sectors as well as those owned by foreign companies. The network exhibits heavy-tailed, power-law-like degree distribution, and assortative mixing. We further investigated the dynamics of the formation of this network by conducting a temporal network motif analysis, with patent co-ownership among the companies being considered. By regarding opposition as a negative relationship and patent co-ownership as a positive relationship, we analysed where collaboration may occur in the opposition network and how such positive relationships would interact with negative relationships. The results identified the structurally imbalanced triadic motifs and the temporal patterns of the occurrence of triads formed by a mixture of positive and negative relationships. Our findings suggest that the mechanisms of the emergence of the inter-organisational adversarial relationships may differ from those of other types of negative relationships, hence necessitating further research.
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