Patent Landscaping For IP Investments

Comparable to virtually any other financial investment services based businesses like securities, commodities, stocks and asset management, IP investments (a.k.a buying or investing in strategic IP assets and associated companies) also requires access to the best information systems and knowledge platforms which form the basis of making the right strategic moves. Access to large up-to-date data sources, ability to process and analyze vast amounts of data into actionable intelligence are paramount to decision making.

So what kind of research data facilitates such actions? In many ways, research for IP investments is similar to research that is done for new product development or when venturing into a new product space.

For example, say an organization is looking to make investments in a relatively new technology that may not have existed long enough in the market place. For example CNT or Carbon Nano Tubes CNT or Carbon Nano Tubes which is making headways in the material sciences, energy and semiconductors space. While there are some figures on the production costs as well as the projected market figures on demand for Carbon Nano Tubes, it’s still an infant market and there may not be much data for calculating the traction this new material is gaining. By analyzing past and new patent application filings (including journal articles)for CNT related research, one can evaluate a true measure of research interest in CNT and correlate some of these trends along with the financial projections to get a deeper view into how this market is evolving. Breaking down the total patent set across different market segments can serve as start point for slicing it into smaller patent pools. These pools can further be broken by ownership into individual, company or group holdings and can be rated based on their forward citations and other commercial or legal factors.

One can also undertake keyword analysis to locate Technology terms or topics that are rapidly rising in the near term (Emerging technologies) is also useful when deciding which patent pools to further investigate. A detailed Patent Landscape Patent Landscape may also include analysis such as Product-Patent maps covering new products that use CNT as a core or replacement technology, patent pools mapped across a Problems vs Technology-aiding-the-Solution matrix.

While patent analysis has traditionally been related to research and development teams working on technical aspects of innovation and building IP portfolios around their products, the financial sphere is picking up and a secondary market for buying and selling patent is developing. The IP Investments sector is all about strategically driving value from intellectual property investments; be it acquiring valuable patent portfolios, licensing patent portfolios or selling IP assets.

USPTO Patent Data Now On Google

Till recently you could “Google” patents and perhaps find some of what you were looking for but just as you would for just about any other information. Now with the announcement of Google and the USPTO having entered into an agreement to make the following USPTO products available on Google there is a vast amount of patent data which has just become more accessible. With the ability to simply go to Google and bulk download large sets of patent texts, assignments, images and other information the data has been thrown open for those who can leverage it.

Although bulk patent data sourced from subscription based databases will continue to offer valuable features, the availability of USPTO data on Google is a reaffirmation that we’re quickly moving towards an age where massive amounts of valuable data is readily available for analysis. The focus and challenges are gradually moving towards the efficient management of such quantities of data and extracting exactly intelligence from it.

The development will perhaps pave way for content-driven in-house search and analysis systems that provide a destination for bulk patent data and go further in extracting insights in different ways from it. Due to the nature, format and size of the data, its unlikely to be usable directly by end users and so IP search systems that can support the formats and organize the information may appear soon. As access to patent data through open information channels increases the need to handle the IP information being researched and be able to analyze and report it quickly and efficiently becomes a priority.

With the right tools and software to manage it efficiently, this data could be an invaluable information and research asset.

An Insight Into WIPO 2009 International Patent Filings

The WIPO Patent Filings Report was published last month and at first glance 2009 seems like a year when innovation was held back by the economic turmoil especially across developed countries. Overall the report shows a 4.5% decline in filings from the 2008 figures but despite the decline, it also reveals some interesting insights into the changing face of innovation globally. Here are just some of the insights the 2009 international patent filings reveal:

Industrialized Nations Vs Developing Nations

Are the innovation efforts of more industrialized nations more susceptible to significant declines as a result of the economic conditions as compared to the developing counties? The filings seem to suggest so. While USA, Germany, Sweden and Canada showed declines of 11.4%, 11.2%, 11.3% and 11.7% respectively, China had an increase of 29.7% in patent filings.

Top 5 Counties for Patent Filings & How They Fared In 2008 vs 2009

 Electronics Dominate The Applications

The electronics industry dominated the patent filings charts with most of the top 10 and a significant portion of the top 100 featuring electronics manufacturers. Japans Panasonic Corp, China’s Huawei  Technologies and Germany’s Robert Bosch GMBH taking the top three spots.

 

Developing Countries To Look Out For

Korea, China, India, Brazil and South Africa lead patent filings from developing countries with Turkey, Malaysia, Mexico and Barbados close behind. Korea and China which were earlier looked upon more as manufacturing centers of the world are rapidly evolving to becoming innovative economies as figures show.

 

In terms of share in filings amongst developing countries, Korea and China lead with a sizable lead over the rest and competitively gaining ground over several developed nations too.

While 2009 with it’s economic significance may not be indicative of the upcoming years, the WIPO patent filings show there are some significant global implications to how the world’s innovation centers are evolving.

Analyzing Increasingly Large Patent Sets To Fuel Innovation Of Tomorrow

The backed up patent applications at most patent offices and long waits to process new applications may be annoying for most inventors and businesses alike but it amplifies just how fast innovation is happening today as compared to a decade or two ago.

Perhaps one of the most significant drivers for this pace is information technology and the instant availability of the vast existing knowledge base (patent and journal databases) for scientists and innovators to build on it. While researching and analyzing past technologies has always been a part of the process for those on a quest to discover something new, the process in the past relied on the ability to go through vast amounts of information manually, carry out analysis and then use that knowledge to take things to the next level. The same process applies today but the speed at which existing knowledge can be analyzed has been increasing tremendously.

For example, if one is looking for alternatives to fossil fuels and traditional energy sources the first phase would involve going through past efforts to understand what’s been done, then looking for patterns, gaps and opportunities within that data and finally being able to find a direction to focus your research or investigation on. Prior to advancements in text processing and software in general, this involved gathering and sifting through piles of existing patents and journal citations. However the sheer number of patents alone (> 5000) that exist in alternative energy technology as well as patents indirectly related to these, the older procedure can take weeks, months or longer

Organizing IP Research across different technology verticals of interest is a pressing need for corporate IP practitioners. A in-depth research and analysis effort which used to take a long time can now effectively done used advanced search and fast scanning tools present in patent analysis and research platforms. Being able to quickly report on different technologies, integrate feedback from sales and R&D into your IP research and present a unified output is now possible by the use of such solutions.

Knowledge management in the IP and innovation space is getting better and quicker everyday. With it, the kind of analyzed and precise information that research teams can have access to is revolutionizing the speed at which companies innovate and thereby giving them an edge over their competition. While this isn’t helping the situation at the patent offices with the back logs of applications there is still a brighter side to it for innovators: there are quick and efficient ways to get insights from large reference information sets and build a better tomorrow.

Flow of IP Knowledge & Patent Intelligence Through a Organization

The European Patent Academy did an insightful presentation Patent & Innovation Management at Istanbul at the start of this month. While the presentation covers a wider topic, a single slide on the innovation process stands out to demonstrate the importance of having a robust IP knowledge management system in place to ensure the flow of information along side the process.


The innovation process involves:

Creation of Ideas >> Project Design >> Project Development >> Production >> Market Launch

In any innovation driven business each of these areas can be further broken down into multiple activities which revolve around the development and management of intellectual property including activities like filing for new patents, protecting IP assets, maneuvering through competitors patents, strategic product development and more. However the value of right information is critical throughout the cycle. IP knowledge and intelligence functions as a support pillar right from creation of ideas to marketing the product and right through the product life-cycle.

The entire innovation process is supported and seen through by multiple departments and functions within the company. Its a combined effort of research, thinkers, designers, developers, legal professionals, finance, marketing, strategy and others and each of them must rely on IP intelligence to guide them through their roles in the innovation process. Having an in-house IP Knowledge Management platform helps since IP knowledge, access to it and ability to use it well is a common requirement across each department who has a role in this process. With such systems a company can offer a common knowledge platform that can be leveraged across the board. Along with patents even scientific literature like journals and other publications can be processed to provide intelligence on markets, customers, technology, processes, business strategies, risks, opportunities and competitors which can aid everyone involved in the innovation process.

The efficient flow of IP data and intelligence within an organization can fuel better innovation and translate into more gains for businesses

Incremental Innovation – Pushing The Boundaries Of Product Development

We often look at research and development as a function which relies on very extensive knowledge of what exists around us and then looking for ways to improve on it and take it up a notch. This is echoed in a brilliant post I recently read by Gord Hotchkiss titled “Predicting Innovation” where he says:

Great innovation builds on what comes before it. This lines up with something I have long believed – there is no such thing as revolutionary innovation, just a series of incremental evolutionary innovations that at some point reaches a tipping point and appears to be revolutionary. I’ve used the iPhone as an example before.

Great Innovation does not require people to make radical changes in beliefs or behavior – Again, with incremental innovation, the market must understand the innovation and relate it to something they’re used to. The iPhone made smartphones smarter, more fun and more useful. It didn’t require us to make a great leap of

The same applies to just about any industry whether pharmaceuticals, healthcare, automobiles or technology. Every breakthrough product has been a result of extensive research and understanding of what has already been developed by others in the field and making incremental improvements which can often translate into a considerable jump forward.

Acquiring and managing information and knowledge is a large part of the incremental innovation process and having the right systems in place can support this process to great degree. Access to the right technical papers, patent information and related data open up avenues to increase the knowledge base one has to work with. And that leads to a common problem today – Information overload. How you manage all the information, create data points from assimilation of the information then bring out insights is as important as having access to the information.

Therein comes the need for knowledge mining solutions that help you unlock insights from the masses of data with ease and efficiency and further also help in overall managing the information so that you can quickly refer back to it at a later period of time. We recently referred to such a solution as – intellectual property knowledge management solutions in our Enterprise Edition Solution Brief. The  ‘flow of’ insights from IP data is critical to the R&D process is setting up the right processes with a robust system in place can help them focus more on the most important component of incremental innovation mentioned above- “Improving On It”. This is after all where abilities to make a difference come in and innovative skills are rewarded.

Improving on what is known is where the focus of product development should be instead of re-inventing what is already known. With the help of the right knowledge solutions which can accelerate the information management process, product development teams know where the boundaries are and can redirect their energies towards pushing these boundaries forward. Isn’t that the key to breakthrough developments?

Innovation and R&D Picks Up

As companies leave the worst of the global recession behind them and economies with the help of stimulus packages from their respective governments are starting to pick up again there is acceleration in R&D and innovation as well.  News and blog posts in the innovation realm look positive with more frequent stories of spending on R&D is gradually picking up. Reports suggested that investment on R&D during the recession did increase even during the recession although at a lower rate than previous years. This post by Mark J Perry titled Despite Recession, Innovation Is Alive and Well. In the post Mark reveals

“In the face of a severe global recession, the world’s 1,000 largest publicly traded corporate research and development spenders increased R&D budgets in 2008, affirming the critical importance of innovation to their corporate strategies, according to Booz & Company’s Global Innovation 1000, the global management consulting firm’s fifth annual analysis of global innovation spending. R&D spending at these firms rose 5.7% in 2008, a slower rate of growth than the prior year’s 10% increase, but in line with the group’s 6.5% increase in worldwide sales. More than two-thirds of the companies included in this year’s Global Innovation 1000 maintained or increased R&D spending in 2008, even though a third of the companies reported a financial loss for the year.

However during the downturn almost every business had to look into it’s processes and make changes that would help see them through this rough financial period and whatever those changes were, they are not likely to go away in the near future. Mergers and Acquisitions in IP pickedup as many smaller firms facing closure had their IP up for sale. While some large businesses were also looking at trimming their patent portfolios others with a larger cash reserves were busy aggregating portfolios that were valuable and available for pennies to the dollar. Many IP departments were forced to look at operational efficiencies and as to how they can save time and cost and achieve better output. Innovation and R&D are no exceptions to this. Although organizations know that innovation is key to secure future success and will continue to invest in R&D, they are also likely to continue to look for ways to improve their R&D processes and innovate smart rather than by pouring capital into it.

Smarter innovation practices can be through using online collaboration platforms and getting customers more involved in the process. It can be through seeking strategic partnerships with other organizations working towards similar technologies to share R&D costs and speed up efforts. It could be through improving patent information sharing systems and having access to better information, making smarter, better calculated decisions and avoiding mistakes that can cost time and money. The possibilities are plenty. What is left to do is find out how to innovate smarter and strengthen the process from the inside and make it more efficient. After all innovation needs to work towards creating revenue and advantages for the business and not be perceived as a cost center or financial black hole.

Perhaps the recession in many ways helped organizations pause and take a look at how they were functioning and pushed everyone to seek improved ways to go about it. Though the pressure has eased, hopefully, the will to keep improving and making R&D more efficient will not fade away too quickly.

The Battle On Software Patents Continues – How Would You Resolve It?

It’s everywhere! Blogs are buzzing with opinions and views on it, Twitter is flowing with tweets and references to it and IP professionals, innovators and the software industry are glued to  In re Bernard L. Bilski and Rand A. Warsaw v. Kappos  where the battle for patent rights for software and in particular business methods has turned into a war of sorts.

Some of the large stalwarts in software such as IBM, Yahoo, Accenture among many have shown strong support for extensive patent rights for software.  Several other smaller software firms, developers and organizations like the Free Software Foundation see software patenting as detrimental to progress and future of the software technology industry. Gene Quinn of IPWatchDog.com in his post went a somewhat fresh route and not just backed the need for software patents but also insisted that star-ups and smaller companies have a lot to gain from filing patents for their software technology in his recent post  “Why All Small Businesses Need Software Patents”. The battle on whether software patents should be allowed or not is a tough one with arguments both for and against this idea.

Those against it argue software code is logic and mathematical and the current patent system is just not equipped to handle such an issue. It’s almost like Twitter can make a claim they invented the “What are you doing now?” component of the application which allows people to update what they are doing through their software and claim “this is code” they used and it should be protected from others using their idea. Someone like Facebook however could claim that they already had this feature as part of their application where people could update what they were doing and share it with friends long before Twitter and their code though different was the original claim to this innovation. The arguments can go on endlessly and further innovation and development of software can be hampered if every single software component some developer programmed were to be patented and off-limits to other software not to mention how much more expensive software could become if every such component had to be licensed to create a working application.

On the other hand there is very little advantage for a true innovator or first mover in the software field and very little protection from the large players. For example if a smart developer invents an algorithm which can help identify and recognize objects and details in graphic images like photos and wants to monetize this through building a full application and creating a start-up, it could be just a matter of time before some large player like Flickr or Microsoft discover this and have their R&D departments replicate the technology perhaps with different code. In this system, those with the marketing might or large pockets to buy smaller players benefit without the real innovators being rewarded proportionately. That alone makes a fairly strong case for software patenting.

Whichever side you take, there are compelling arguments and there is no doubt that if a race for patenting software inventions starts, it will have a long term impact on the industry. It could change the way we develop software or at least the approach development. It would mean rather than simply checking for copyrights and licenses for certain applications or components, businesses will now have to study and analyze all patent sets around their project to look out for liabilities and possible infringement cases before getting behind the screen to start coding. It’s still important to consider the software industry can’t easily be compared to the pharmaceutical industry or the automobile industry where patenting and IP protection have been an inherent part of their world. Yet, this new industry has developed at lightning speed and the stakes are high for everyone involved. Though this battle is not over, the way it finally turns out will depend heavily on public view and everyone’s opinion.

So what is your take on it? Should extensive software patenting rights be granted? How would you see this battle resolved?

The WIPO 2009 Report – Interesting Patent Statistics & What Do They Imply To Your IP Intelligence Requirements

September 18th 2009 marked the end of a two day international symposium for IP heads by WIPO. Based on the 2009 World Intellectual Property Indicators report by WIPO which was also recently released we can only guess there were a number of important issues to discuss including the impact of the global economic crisis and recession on the filing of new patents across patent offices around the world. Though the report doesn’t  indicate exact figures, it does mention there was a decrease in the total number of patents filed for the year 2008 although over 760,000 patents were issued during the year and 1.85 million patents filed. Surprisingly, ASIA was more resilient and has been seeing steady growth in South Korea and China which grew 23.9%.

The patent statistics within the report create an insight into the global trends in terms of innovation and highlight several interesting facts around patent activity around the world. This information is particularly interesting for us at Patent iNSIGHT Pro since we work with patent data analysispatent reports and statistics every day. These are the kind of findings which give businesses and innovators the insight needed to know what is going on around the world of intellectual property. It helps draw visible conclusions based on analyzing thousands and even millions of patents and present the findings in a simple easy to understand reports and graphs. Each finding implies something  useful for some business or innovator around the world based on their field or business.  On their own, there are plenty of interesting facts published in this year’s report which you can read here. As the name of the report suggests, the value lies in what the findings of the data analysisindicates and what it implies to your business.  Some of the interesting statistics published in the 2009 WIPO report with regards to patents include:

“The five largest patent offices (China, European Patent Office, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America) accounted for 69% of total resident filings and 81.5% of non-resident filings in 2007. The high ratio of non-resident filings compared to resident filings is partly due to the fact that all patent filings at the EPO are considered as non-resident filings.

In 2007, the largest number of resident filings originated from Japan, the United States of America, China and the Republic of Korea. Between 2003 and 2007, resident filings of Japan declined by 1.8% per year. In contrast, resident filings of China and the Republic of Korea grew by 28.1% and 9.3% respectively.

There has been a steady increase in the total number of patent families during the past 15 years. The total number of patent families (based on first filing date) in 2006 amounted to 946,498, representing an 8% increase from the previous year.

During the period 2002-2005, patent applications in the fields of computer technology, telecommunications and audio-visual technology had strong growth, with the annualized growth rate surpassing 6%. In contrast, patent applications in the field of biotechnology have gradually decreased over the same period.

Medical technology accounted for the largest share of foreign-oriented patent families for Australia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The largest number of foreign-oriented families originating from France and Germany were in the field of transport.

In the field of telecommunications, applicants from Finland, Sweden, Republic of Korea and China have an above average concentration of foreign-oriented patent families. Applicants from Singapore and the Republic of Korea have a high concentration of foreign-oriented patent families in semiconductors. Applicants from European countries have an above-average concentration in the transport and engines, pumps and turbines fields.

For the first time, a Chinese company (Huawei Technology) topped the list of applicants with the highest number of PCT filings. Panasonic Corporation (Japan) and Philips (Netherlands) were ranked second and third. US universities dominated the list of top PCT applicants for the university sector. The University of California filed 345 PCT applications. Tokyo, Seoul National, Imperial College and Osaka are the four non-US universities in the top 20 list.

All these findings may be viewed to imply something to various businesses and innovators.  To a business located just about anywhere in the world which is looking to protect their IP interests in markets around the world the first finding on the offices with the most non-resident patent filings may imply that these five are top priorities for filing new patents going by the general trend of others. Based on this report they may want to initially file patent applications within these markets to start off with and then review the other countries which accept less than 20% of the total applications.

Similarly, a business or innovator working within the telecommunications technology space, may want to first protect their IP in countries like Finland, Sweden, Korea and China being above average concentration of foreign-oriented patent families. The same report also implies that there could be a much greater potential for licensing patents within these countries for anyone holding patents for telecommunications technology and displays revenue opportunities in these countries for their innovations.

The WIPO database holds a wealth of information which could be extremely valuable for smarter well informed decision making for businesses. This particular report shed some light on what is going in general with IP around the world. A macro view so to speak but there is so much more the data can tell with regards to highly specific areas of interest. With the right analysis software tools you can look into useful facts that pertain directly to your area of interest and gather intelligence that helps make better decisions. The database of over 63 million patents which are already in force around the world is your ocean of data to explore. It’s up to each one to discover what are the indicators they would like to track based on their IP intelligence needs

Patent Licensing in Universities – Extracting value from research investments

Universities in the US encourage researchers with innovative minds to pursure their inventions and invest into patenting promising inventions expecting to generate profits by licensing the developed technology to interested companies. The technology transfer offices of the universities usually get many invention ideas from their researchers and have to decide which ones to invest further time and resources into. Many have already build valuable patent portfolios as a result of academic research and innovations which have become continuous sources of licensing revenue most of which is a lot more that research and legal investments made and so is used to further catalyze the innovation assessment and investment process. Here is an excerpt published by Forbes in a 2008 article on Stanford University:

Stanford University’s fertile breeding ground for breakthrough technology may have spawned the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Google, but little Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., really knows how to get serious returns on its research and development.

To wit: In 2006, the school took in $4.5 million in research-related income (including licensing revenue and returns on equity stakes in start-ups) while shelling out $28 million on research–a 16% yield. That same year, Stanford pulled in $62 million against a $700 million investment; return on investment (ROI): 8.7%.

While perhaps thousands of universities globally develop valuable IP during the course of their academic research, very few file patents to protect it and fewer still are able to effectively capitalize by licensing their patents. Many US universities hold multiple patents that have failed to find licensees. Many of these are presently marketed by publishing invention details in journals, industry and trade newsletters, conference magazines (AUTM), using agents or brokers. While the culture of investing in research and filing patents has developed and matured in many US universities, being able to spot revenue opportunities within the patent portfolios already held by universities can be accelerated with strong patent analysis support. Much of similar kind of analysis is undertaken by Patent Licensing and Enforcement Agencies (See previous blog) and IP brokers.

Many universities expect not all their patents will be licensed. In fact most rely on a few blockbuster patents to bring home the revenue. Usually only 0.6% of licenses generate in excess of $1,000,000 in annual royalties.

Clearly there is need for universities to be more aggressive on the patent portfolios held by them. Assertive licensing and identification of infringers is important. However a change in research approach is required and universities need to analyze the technology areas their inventions lie in and gather data that can be used to back  their assertive licensing strategies. By improving their internal  patent analysisactivities, universities can:

  • Understand the market place and discover licensing opportunities and spaces in the market for research and technology even before filing for patents
  •  Discovering licensing revenue opportunities and spotting companies that are infringing their IP or those who would like to

In short, these universities can use IP intelligence to work smarter , make fewer more lucrative investments in research, targeting select research areas, knowing where the opportunities lie and filing for patents specifically for IP which they are more certain will yield revenues. Good analysis will effectively help achieve better ROI on their IP investments. Even if a small percentage of the Universities out there follow in the footsteps of the those with large patent licensing revenues, the impact will be big. Only time will tell if they do.