The current economic environment is a good time to be picking up patents at pennies to the dollar either directly from inventors or smaller companies for quickly enhancing the existing patent portfolio and thereby increasing your counter-sue threat to anyone who may sue you for infringement.
One of the popular techniques is Quantitative Portfolio Gap analysis that is used to identify weak areas in a patent portfolio that may benefit from such a strategy.
An important pre-requisite for such an analysis is having a set of technology categories around which your business revolves. These categories bring business sense to your analysis and so how you structure them will have a direct impact on your strategy. More and more organizations have and maintain a set of well-defined categories around which their products and businesses revolve.
To begin to understand where you have quantitative gaps that can be filled up, a smart way is to categorize the entire prior art that exists in your field along your categories. Although having to categorize competitors portfolios may appear as a daunting task, various text mining and portfolio categorization tools can help accelerate your process. The next step is to compare your portfolio with the key competitors. By comparing the different portfolios quantitatively and you are essentially trying to locate areas where your portfolio is significantly smaller than the competition.
Once you have identified the areas, remove your and key competitors patents from the set and focus on the remaining patents in the category. It’s important to update the Patent Assignment information from the US Assignments database so that you are clear about the current ownership of the patents. Again patent analysis tools can help make this task much easier. Post this, look out for the following:
- The bottom 20-30% of the Assignees
- One year only Assignees – Companies whose patent(s) fall in just one year implying that their interest is perhaps opportunistic and not part of any continuous research or product development
- Old Assignees – Companies whose patents fall only in the earlier years and which do not have any new records say in the last 5 years implying that they aren’t focused any more in this area
- Universities and Individual Inventors
Patents of interest must be checked for legal validity to filter out those that haven’t expired. For those that have recently expired due to failure to pay maintenance fees make sure you check if they fall under the revival window since such patents can be easily picked up. Finally, you can leverage the services of an IP broker who will help hide your identity while finding if the other party is interested to sell and will further help in structuring the transaction.