Apatent document fully discloses the working of an invention in a particular field of technology. The technical details of more than 70% of the world’s major innovations are made publicly available through granted patents and published patent applications. These information-dense documents typically have much more to offer than just an answer to the question, “How does it work?”
In almost all jurisdictions, the typical patent publication has face page details which include the assignee name, date of filing, date of publication, forward and backward citations and related information.
Some patent offices provide a complete patent specification which requires that the inventive concept involved be disclosed in detail.
This results in a published patent document which is a rich source of information; if this is extracted and analysed, it can provide valuable business and legal insights that may become key elements of competitive advantage.
Patent intelligence reports may be presented in the form of text documents, data spreadsheets or displays to support a spoken presentation. They can provide a unique source of information that answers the who, when, where, how and why questions around a new invention, shedding light on the relationships between inventors, companies and attorneys; trends in inventions, assignments and research; the strengths and weaknesses of different geographic regions in terms of inventor and assignee output; current approaches, technologies, mechanisms, uses and advantages of inventions; and current motivations, applications, improvements, opportunities and investments.
Innovation management in big corporations mandates pre-investment studies of the market, technology and financial aspects that are associated with premeditated lines of research. This is particularly important for technology transfer centres and for technology incubators within research and academic organizations which are seeking to identify licensing opportunities.
The intelligence derived from patent reports can help to streamline research activities, thereby reducing the costs of innovation. This can help focus attention on the pursuit of only quality patents, enabling judicious spending of patent budgets and minimizing the threat of patent invalidation.
Patent intelligence reports can also be used to identify most relevant prior arts for an invention. In an era when a significant share of a company’s market value is determined by its intangible assets, leveraging patents for in- or out-licensing provides tremendous opportunities for enhanced revenue, and for cost balancing while building sustainable product differentiation. Patent out-licensing is a key source of value extraction for all types of technology, service and product companies. Patent in-licensing is an increasingly popular method of “fencing in” or “fencing out” innovation in important strategic areas.
During the current period of economic slowdown companies are taking a cautious approach to mergers and acquisitions. A detailed study of a company’s patent portfolio helps in evaluating its intangible assets and predicting likely growth in the years to come. Such information, when added to business intelligence, financial information and market research, can assist successful strategic business decisions.
Producing useful documents
Patent outsourcing vendors provide intelligence reports that are customized to meet client requirements. The effectiveness of such services depends heavily on a good understanding of the technology, suitable presentation of the report, thoroughness of patent data research and clear communication as to the report’s purpose in relation to the client’s business requirements.
The popularity of this type of service has led to the emergence of a new industry segment that provides software tools to at least partly automate the process of mining, analysing and presenting the data obtained from multiple patent documents. Automation is intended to improve the accuracy of the reports and reduce turnaround time and costs.
However, for the insights available from patent intelligence reports to have any benefit, it is also important to equip clients with the knowledge of how to extract and articulate the information they contain.
Managers need to learn how to align the valuable technical, legal and business information derived from patent documents to their own product portfolios. Multiple meetings between the vendor and the client should be built into the business process to guide the analysis towards the intended purpose of the report.
TS Sharat is a senior patent engineer and leads the Intellectual Property Support Services Unit at Clairvolex Knowledge Processes, a Delhi-based legal outsourcing firm.
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