Patent citation analysis is a widely used technique in the evaluation of science and technology. The basic premise behind its use is that papers or patents cited as prior art by many later patents tend to contain important ideas upon which numerous inventors have built. This does not mean that every important document is highly cited, or that every highly cited document is important. However, numerous validation studies have revealed the existence of a strong positive relationship between citations and technological importance (see Breitzman and Mogee (2002) for a review of validation studies).
Breitzman, Anthony, "Why do Inventors Reference Papers and Patents in their Patent Applications?" (2010). Faculty Scholarship for the College of Science & Mathematics. 15.