Going Green Calls For Collaborative Innovation

Every year a spike of innovation marked by an increase in patent filings happens in one or more of the several industry segments and creates a buzz grabbing everyone’s attention. This year one that comes to attention instantly is going green. The global initiative on battling climate change has gathered tremendous momentum this year as compared to the past and combines with several other environmental issues faced globally such as depleting mineral energy resources and waste the emphasis on innovation to work towards environmentally friendly technology and sustainable businesses has reached a new level.

A recent news article on Green Energy Reporter  said:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office granted some 271 clean energy patents during the third quarter of 2009, which is the highest amount of approved patents in a single quarter, according to the latest Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) compiled by law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti.

While companies across the globe are stepping up their research and development efforts to step up discoveries of greener energy sources, finding solutions to the issues we face is not just restricted to energy. CleanTechnica.com published a great article on how leading footwear manufacturer Nike has been using innovation and collaboration to develop footwear and apparels out of sustainable and recyclable material while making it financially viable for production as soon as possible. An extract quoted Nike in that article said:

From Nike: The long-term vision for Considered is to design products that are fully closed loop: produced using the fewest possible materials, designed for easy disassembly while allowing them to be recycled into new product or safely returned to nature at the end of their life. By 2011, 100 percent of footwear will meet baseline Considered standards, apparel by 2015 and equipment by 2020 – creating better performing products while minimizing environmental impact by reducing waste, using environmentally preferred materials and eliminate toxins.

Organizations have set themselves very tight deadlines and understand they are working against time when it comes to “going green”. That means the research and development organizations have to step up the innovation, look for ways to tap ideas from universities and external teams (Open Innovation) and move quicker. Researching internal generated IP and external IP is a key information driver for Open Innovation.

How you organize all the researched information is as important as conducting the research since you can quickly hit information overload. Having the right Intellectual Property Knowledge Management system is important for a better organized, more efficient process. Being better organized involves improving workflows and  improving management and communication of analyzed information to the decision maker in minimum time. Well managed patent data can help tremendously in the research process, understanding what competitors are doing, finding collaborators working in a similar direction, acquiring technology needed to speed up the process and more. You can then make internal workflows quicker and efficient and easily share data involved in the innovation process both within departments across the organization and outside with partners or third parties involved.

The race against time to develop greener alternatives to the way we function today will require the best minds to come together in a quest for solutions and thereby compel companies to come together, work collaboratively, share information and innovate.  That calls for organizations to be more open about IP research and have systems that can scale to support research happening locally and externally.

Nokia Vs Apple iPhone The Patent Battle Intensifies – Where Is The Reward For Innovation?

In telecom circles everyone is following the patent infringement battle between Nokia and Apple with keen interest on how it pans out. Nokia claims Apple infringed on no less than 10 of it’s patents related to wireless standards with the launch of the iPhone and no royalties or licensing fees have been paid by Apple till date. What started out as a competitive strategy battle has made it’s way to federal court and the battle has intensified having the online users everywhere support their favorite cell phone manufacturers and having their own little war on blogs and web publications. The Silicon Valley Insider ‘s Business Insider published a post titled “Lame Nokia Sues Apple Over iPhone Patent Infringement “ making their view clear in support of their home team Apple but it questions whether their stand would be down played had the tables been turned and Nokia used Apple’s Multi-Touch technologies in their line smart phones clearly taking away Apple’s innovative advantage. Calling a company “lame” for protecting or enforcing its IP may be a little over the top.  After all aren’t patents a strategic advantage rewarding innovation?

The cell phone manufacturing industry has always been one driven by innovation with the companies which have been able to think out of the box and innovate being rewarded with market share. There was a time not too long ago when Motorola was the force to reckon with. Although their market share gradually diminished and they lost out to other handset makers, their intellectual property rights portfolio has long out lived and out-performed their handset sales as companies today still license many core components which were invented and patented by Motorola.  Virtually every handset manufacturer has had to build their new products by licensing some components or technologies from others patents. What is not very clear and yet to come out is whether Apple missed these patents while developing and launching the iPhone or if they were aware that they were open to patent infringement claims and decided to ignore it till something came up.

In any technology intensive industry it’s not impossible to miss patents which should have been brought to attention during the research and development process or during product development and marketing. Patent research and competitive monitoring data is often managed by multiple people across departments using a multitude of databases, systems, software and vendors. IP research and analysis for new product development can get quite unwieldy without a comprehensive patent system and process for managing workflows and tracking patent sets and it isn’t all that difficult to overlook technologies and their underlying patents that could be very important to have noted. Here is an extract from the post carried by the Business Insider which can put things into perspective:

During the last two decades, Nokia has invested approximately EUR 40 billion in research and development and built one of the wireless industry’s strongest and broadest IPR portfolios, with over 10,000 patent families. Nokia is a world leader in the development of GSM technologies and its evolution to UMTS / 3G WCDMA as well as wireless LAN, which is also demonstrated by Nokia’s strong patent position in these technologies.

With 10,000 patent families to track and keep an eye on from one manufacturer such as Nokia and likewise many patent portfolios held by other manufacturers in the same space the possibility of patent infringement liabilities is ever present as are the odds of overlooking important patents which could come back at a future date in the form of lawsuits or claims.

Apple in comparison is relatively new in handset market and has already broken ground with its superb UI innovation capabilities which is evident from their iPhone product. The Multi-touch technology which has been patented is just one of those innovations and as Apple’s portfolio grows over time other handset companies will have to keep tabs on Apple’s patents and may find themselves with horns locked in a similar situation some day. While many will base their opinions on whose phone they like better or who their favorite cell phone manufacturer is, the battle is about innovation and the ability to protect IP. In sum, businesses that innovate should be rewarded for their efforts.

Patent Analysis Tools For Intellectual Property Law Firms – The IP Intelligence Advantage

Access to the best possible intelligence is the backbone of any practicing law firm and investments in research and information enhancement capabilities often translates directly into being able to build strong cases for clients. There is no exception to intellectual property law firms when it comes to building intelligence assets.

Most ongoing engagement with clients requires a law firm to have access to quick insights from the set of patents relevant to the case. Insights from having records in a research and analysis platform can immensely help the engagement at different stages.

Here is a quick summary of how patent analysis tools can assist external attorneys in their client engagements:

  • Firms can efficiently manage IP records that are being researched as part of different client engagements. Searches being done internally or being received from external service providers can be integrated into a common portfolio where the attorney can conduct finer review, refinement and analysis.
  •  Attorneys can quickly open these portfolios in front of a client during a meeting to back up the advise or insight being given.
  • Patent analysis tools can help attorneys focus on the legal review aspect and spend less time in preparing data and results to to support ongoing litigations.
  • For most clients, patent text is often quite raw and technical in nature and perhaps not suitable when making a clear statement. Solutions with good analytics and reporting capabilities help present the data in a very clear graphical or tabular format which helps law firms bring out the facts plain and simple in a fashion that makes sense to end users.
  • Advanced Search Capabilities in tools like Patent iNSIGHT Pro, include features such as SLART (Simultaneous left and right truncation), Approximate searching, Quick similarity matching between Claims across full text of other records can be very useful when conducting infringement and patentability studies.
  • Tools such as keyword generation and clustering that summarize very specific words, sentences, phrases and even topics within patents could offer a huge advantage when drafting new product application in a congested technology space. ( Here is an earlier article that spoke about how keyword analysis can be done on claims.)
  • Ability to narrow down and efficiently analyze the right patent set  can help conduct preliminary research before filing for new applications for clients. It allows law firms to know of any objections or obstacles patent officers might have even before starting the application process.
  • Many small and  mid-sized technology firms that do not have internal IP research capabilities increasingly rely on external counsel for advice on overall IP strategy. Having the right tools to detect infringement, monitor competitor information, study trends, track recent activity and gather crucial facts is critical for such engagements.
  • Ongoing Litigation activity also requires data to be analyzed and presented suitably in the court as evidence to back a claim.

Access to intellectual property and patent information per se is not difficult. Being able to have quick access and answers to very specific questions and being able to retrieve facts with speed and ease is what can offer IP and patent law firms the upper hand in their daily practice and the right patent data analysis software can help unlock this advantage.

Key Features of Patent Analysis Tools

Patent analysis tools though all geared to deliver information and intelligence around patents are often different in terms of their features and capabilities. How do you know what features to look for in a solution that would help your organization? Here is a brief overview of the various important features found in most comprehensive patent data analysis tools and  what components to look out for during the evaluation process.

Search Capabilities

In most cases the search has already been done on a database, so why would you want search in an analysis solution? Searching is usually a requirement for custom portfolio categorization and further its critical when conducting deeper analysis such as infringement or FTO. Even when looking at a chart, its important to be able to immediately drill-down from the chart and search through the segmented portion to get to the answer or insight you seek. Finally, many a time you have your custom fields such as  Docket Ids, tags, comments etc associated with each record and you would like to include these in your search.

Patent Text Mining functions

When working with sets of 10000 records or more if you want to quickly understand what locate topics of interest or sometimes even understand which topics are prominent across the set and what sub-topics they are associated with, a powerful tunable auto-categorization engine is a must.Solutions that are created specifically for mining and clustering patent text are better suited than more general text mining solutions. Generating keyword lists and using such list for statistical analysis is another popular method used to gain insights on trends across companies, inventors and their patents.

Analytics Capabilities

Some of the capabilities that should be covered are co-occurrence matrices, generating top 10/20/50 lists and  citation analytics. Together they help analyze relationships and spot trends within a certain space and lifecycles of technologies and more. Drilling-down to the actual patents from any of the functions is key.  It’s always good to get a few analytics questions that your organization has, tested and verified using the analytics capabilities so that you are sure if the solution is up to the task of handling your patent intelligence needs.

Charting and Visualization

Converting the results from patent analysis into a powerful visual or graphical representation with ease is a definite must. In many cases exporting visuals to image files is  critical so that they can be reused in your reports or power-points. A good visualization and reporting component helps convey the insight easily without any need for explanation. Powerful visuals necessitate actions from the information consumers typically senior management and result in swift decision making.

Reporting

Generating different styles of reports to suit varying needs across an organization is perhaps the most common activity. Support for a wide range of flexible report types is useful with output format as word or excel so that the user can modify the report as per needs after it has been generated.

User Interface & Ease of Use

There is always a fine balance between having a feature loaded analytics software tools  packed to the brim with options and one that is easy to use even for  someone with relatively little experience of patent information. A good solution in this respect is one that has a relatively easy to use user interface which one can get familiar with in a short time and at the same time have the flexibility and options to allow the user to customize features, options and the environment that they will be working with regularly when any patent analysis has to be done. A very easy to use interface may not always give you that flexibility and range of customization while an extremely complex interface may defeat the purpose and make the process of analyzing data more tedious rather than easier. Look out for an interface which gives you both ease of use along with flexibility of options.

Apart from the above some of the other capabilities to look for are data export features, associating your own custom fields with patent data, rating or scoring system and performance at 10000+ record levels.