Patent Data Analysis Software – Making Life Easier In The World of Computer Technology & Semiconductors

Perhaps one of the most active areas in the forever evolving patent databases is the sphere computer technology and semiconductors. With the sheer volume of R&D in happening in this space today, patent offices world over are busy with new patents constantly being filed. It’s a constant and tedious process for the companies, researchers, legal departments and the patent offices but IP is an integral part of the technology industry.

WIPO statistics around the 2008 world patent report indicate:

In 2005, a large number of patent filings were filed across the world in computer technology (144,594), telecommunications (116,770), and electrical machinery (121,350) technologies. Between 2001 and 2005, patent filings in computer technology, optics, and semiconductors grew by 5.3%, 5.0% and 4.9%, a year, respectively. There was a modest increase in pharmaceuticals filings (1.7%) and a decrease in biotechnology filings (-2.7%).

Electrical engineering, which includes computer technology, telecommunications, electrical machinery, apparatus, energy and audio-visual technology, was the most active technical sector according to the number of patent applications. A high number of applications were also filed in the fields of optics and medical technology.

Between 2001 and 2005, patent applications in the fields of computer technology, optics and semiconductors grew by relatively high percentages. Patent applications in the fields of IT methods for management, analysis of biological materials and chemical engineering, on the other hand, decreased during the same period.

This level of activity and the race to protect IP makes it even more critical for researchers and companies to keep a constant watch on what is going on around them. With so many new patents being filed each day it’s a crowded space and one needs to be careful not to step on others toes or at least be aware of where they stand in this maze of IP landmines. At least, that’s what it could seem like to a researcher with the daunting task of looking through thousands of patents at every step of their working day. A little help from superior text mining technology, the right patent analysis software and technology companies can make the task seem a lot easier.

With the need to increase the quality of new patent filings while keeping a check on the costs, patent analysis software has come a long way within the computer technology and semiconductor arena saving companies from what could be very expensive mistakes. Simply having access to a patent database and looking up a few records of relevant topics isn’t enough. Average number of results per search are continuously rising and its common to land up with 400+ records for a specific search as opposed to say 100-200 records a couple of years back.With these numbers, its very easy to miss a critical piece of information which can effect a companies research and development, their chances of having a new patent application approved and in more extreme cases, render their entire research initiative useless by coming across a major road block set up by a rival. Missing these small bits of information can be expensive.

The advances in text mining technology and patent analysis software have significantly reduced these risks and help technology companies in their IP research process. Clustering tools significantly cut down the time taken to narrow down to topics of interest in bigger result sets. This not only helps you focus on a smaller set of relevant patents which need to be studied before proceeding with any research or filing, but they also help “understand” and help uncover other related topics or areas which could easily have been missed out and may pose a major challenge later in the process. The software can also be trained to show results based on researchers preferences more intelligently which can actually help make the whole process more efficient.

Being informed and having the right intelligence to back your decisions is much easier when you have the right tools to interpret the data and provide the exact information you seek. In the computer technology industry such tools can make working life better by reducing frustration associated with large patent sets and increasing productivity, both at the same time.

Competitive Intelligence – Keeping An Eye On The Competition By Tracking IP & Patent Activity

In our last post we talked about a popular notion that anything to do with patents is relevant only to those who need to file them and those who have legal vested interests in them. We concluded that if analyzed in the right perspective, patent activity can provide actionable intelligence across business functions. The fact is, patent activity is a great indicator of global business in general. By tracking the right sets of patents, you can actually get an overhead view of ‘what is happening in the economy?’ ‘what is happening in your industry?’ ‘where are things headed?’ and the question that’s on the mind of every business development head or management executive “what are my competitors up to?”.

If you are able to pull the right data , the intelligence that analysis software like Patent iNSIGHT pro can generate can be invaluable in studying the competition. The WIPO statistics published on patent activity last year stated:

Worldwide patent activity increased by 4.9% between 2005 and 2006, mostly due to increased filings by applicants from China, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America

* The total number of applications filed across the world in 2006 is estimated to be 1.76 million, representing a 4.9% increase from the previous year. Between 2005 and 2006, the number of filings worldwide by applicants from China, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America increased by 32.1%, 6.6% and 6.7% respectively.

At a macro level, this indicates that businesses in Korea and China need to be monitored more closely as the IP activity levels there are on a rise. However, when you can narrow down and track activity on smaller sub-sets of patents, you can get a much clearer picture of what competitors are doing. It can be used to spot trends and ascertain interest areas of competitors. It can be used to monitor their interest in various markets across the world and help identify their entry or interest in new markets. It can even be used to see if a competitor is planning a change in the direction of the company or diversifying into new areas. Any intelligence which helps you stay a step ahead of them is useful and patent activity can be a very revealing source.

Let’s look at the digital camera space as an example. If you study the bigger players within the industry you’ll probably observe a trend during the last few years where focus has been on developing the CCDs used to capture images. It was the megapixel race where each firm would develop a better CCD with more pixels squeezed into the same space so that their companies would launch the next camera with more megapixels taking a bite out of the competition’s market. More recently, you’ll observe a drop in activity around that area and that should be an indicator to companies in the industry that the focus has shifted from CCDs and moved to other areas. The innovation section of New Scientist Magazine online published an article which suggests that’s exactly what happened in the digital camera arena when they say:

Akira Watanabe, head of Olympus’ SLR planning department, said that 12 megapixels is plenty for most photography purposes and that his company will henceforth be focusing on improving color accuracy and low-light performance.

That will surely raise the quality of most home snaps, but his admission suggests something much bigger for the future of photography. As most of the technological hurdles of capturing still and moving images on consumer-grade cameras have been met, the real frontier of innovation now lies in what happens to images after they have been captured.

Now, from the point of view of someone heading this business unit and responsible for its future, trends like this indicate to the marketing, business development as well as R&D groups that it’s time to sit down and start looking at where that focus has moved. Being able to spot that simple trend at the right time could have saved the business a considerable amount in time and R&D costs by re-aligning their objectives and keeping pace with competition. The real challenge with simply looking through patent data is the vast amount of data which exists which alone, is impractical. This is where text mining technology and patent analysis come to the rescue. In the hands of business development and management executives, it can work as a competition insight software application to spot movements and make smart decisions based on accurate intelligence. Contrary to the belief that you need to have a deep legal understanding of patents to analyze such things, patent analysis technology enables executives to pull the kind of intelligence that they need to go through without really having to look into the legal data at all. It can be used effectively just to keep tabs on the competition and contribute to the decision making process. So if you haven’t considered the value of IP intelligence beyond science and law, you may want to give it a closer look. After all, you never know which competitors may just be keeping an eye on you.

Intelligent Product Development Tip – Is Your R&D Department Re-Inventing The Wheel?

You could say that the world is just about starting to recover from an economic depression that didn’t spare any economy but it’s left a lot of organizational changes in it’s wake which are not likely to change any time soon. One of these several changes is the way in which businesses view innovation and R&D departments as major cost centers rather than the department which needs to be constantly funded without restrictions to come up with the “next big thing since sliced bread” for them. At the peak recession stages product development and innovation departments across several companies took a severe beating with cost cuts and a lot of their projects being kept on hold or even scrapped till things start looking up again. It’s a natural economic phenomenon with innovation, research and development. In boom times when everything is great, businesses applaud them for their role and encourage them to keep innovating. When things go downward, they are singled out as the department which is gobbling up cash reserves and management has them in their sights. Whether you refer to it as innovation, product development or research and development, it has been the cornerstone of success for most of great organizations and they know they can’t completely axe it if they are to have any chance of being anything other than follower (riding on others innovations). Yet, with all that’s happened during the economic meltdown, even when things have recovered, it’s evident that businesses will continue to keep a close eye on every dollar invested and hold every department more accountable for their actions.

When it comes to R&D or product innovation, that translates to continuing to build on a businesses IP and product portfolio in the most cost effective manner possible. It’s clear that there will be very no room for error and very little leeway with budgets. If a business is investing R&D funds towards innovation and invention, then they will assume you have covered all bases and ensuring you are truly working on IP that they can bank on and not simply chasing an idea which a rival has claims on already. It doesn’t pay to re-invent the wheel. As obvious a statement as it may seem, as a product development manager ensuring the intellectual property that you’re working to develop is not something a competitor or someone else has conquered is easier said than done. It’s a challenging stage of the process and perhaps one that can cause the most damage if not done thoroughly. Imagine if Intel Corp were to spend the next 10 years developing what their believed would be the fastest silicon based processor to hit the market till date while rival AMD has already come up with an alternate to silicon which would be light years ahead. It’s unlikely the management would bring out the champagne considering the time, money and effort they spent to come up with something which barely even qualifies for second place. Yet, this is a scenario that is highly probable. R&D can be so caught up in what they are doing and how it could change the future, they forget to look behind and study the competition.Patents have been the best indicators of what is going on in the industry and who those competitors are and needless to say, every product development and R&D person should be actively keeping a pulse on patents within their space. There is a mindset, albeit a gradually decreasing one, that patents are a “legal thing” which should be left to the IP lawyers and corporate office to deal with and in that mindset, it’s easy to miss out on just how much R&D can take from it if seen in the right perspective. It’s this right perspective that patent analysis software like Patent iNSIGHT Pro help R&D professionals and product development managers with.

To do all the groundwork and cover all bases before going head on into the development process, if one looks through a patent database and studies patents individually like paintings hanging on the walls of a museum, there is only so much one can gather from it. It’s when you are able to look at a group of patents within your domain, put together with all their relationships highlighted do you really get to see the complete picture and make sense of where your development work stands in the overall scheme of things. Backward citations help understand what the core innovations are and forward citations provide insights into how those core innovations have been applied in different areas of research. Patent analysis of technologies can help reveal where your R&D maybe crossing paths with someone else’s work and where there is a gap which your team may be able to fill and so much more. Most importantly patent analysis helps R&D to leverage patent data in a form that is relevant to them and not from the viewpoint of a legal professional. Who are the other people in the same innovation space? What are they working on? Are there any overlaps? What can I learn from others who have worked in this space? Where are the gaps for improving on existing patents? Who do I need to connect with to source a certain component? These are just a handful of questions that patents can answer before and during the R&D process given the right perspectives. It’s some of these answers that can prevent massive mistakes like ending up doing research on something which exists or moving in a direction which has a barrier that could have been avoided if R&D was better informed. It’s the right questions and being able to get them answered in time which are necessary to get things right the first time.

All said and done, innovation and product development is, and will continue to be, an essential part of moving forward in this world. It’s possible for business operations and R&D to meet halfway and continue moving ahead while working more intelligently and keeping costs in check. We just have to be better informed and ensure no one is re-inventing the wheel.

Rapid Pubmed Analysis using Patent iNSIGHT Pro

PUBMED includes more than 18 million journal records covering life sciences and biomedical research literature. The coverage dates back from 1950s and is well known to healthcare and biomedical researchers globally.

The MEDLINE abstracts downloadable from PUBMED, like any journal abstract (and unlike patents), are non-deceptive and represent a clear summary of the contents of the journal article. For technology research and mining analyzing journals abstracts is sufficient instead of full-text journal analysis.

When searching PUBMED a common frustration is the high number of results that make it difficult to narrow down to a particular area of interest. Further, getting technology trend-related answers quickly is another key challenge.

Patent iNSIGHT Pro does a highly efficient job when mining journal abstracts sourced from almost all popular journal databases including PUBMED. Recently we decided to run a test to see as to how quickly and efficiently one can find answers to simple and advanced questions in a practical case-study.

For the test we took all the records related to use of a drug – Tacrolimus in organ transplantations. The drug (as per Wikipedia)  is an immunosuppressive drug that works to reduce the activity of the patient’s immune system and thereby lower the risk of organ rejection after an organ transplant operations. These organ transplants can cover liver, kidney, heart, small bowel, pancreas, lung, trachea, skin, cornea, bone marrow, and limb transplants.

So we pulled up all the PUBMED records related to the use of Tacrolimus in transplant operations (8138 records) and analysed the set in Patent iNSIGHT Pro to find answers to the following questions:

  • What trends are seen across different transplants using the drug
  • Who are the key research organizations, key researchers and their focus areas
  • What are the emerging new areas in the space
  • What side effects have been attributed to the use of the drug
  • How are the side effects correlated across different transplant operations

We recorded the whole case study right from searching on PUBMED to getting these answers in a video. The codec required to view the video can be downloaded from here and you can download the case study video from here > Rapid Pubmed Analysis.wmv .

A few of the analysis outputs generated from the test are shown below:

Normally getting answers to some of the questions listed above would take days. As is evident from the video, using Patent iNSIGHT Pro we were able to find answers to these questions and generate the outputs all in about 30 minutes !