What a Patent Landscape can Tell you
A patent landscape can give a new perspective on a market by illustrating the players, their technologies and their filing history and behaviours over time. A comprehensive landscape informs companies about the strength of their IP and how it compares to other companies operating in the same market. Looking at IP in a broad perspective and applying business intelligence provides decision makers with actionable insights and a clear view of potential outcomes for various strategies.
First, it’s important to know the objective of an IP landscape. Landscapes must be targeted to meet a particular business objective and not just be generic for a particular market. A landscape needs to be based on finding specific answers to specific business or technology questions and the research needs to be focussed accordingly. For example, a generic patent landscape of AI patents will show a lot of information, but for that information to be useful, more specific research questions need to be defined at the beginning of the project to ensure they are answered. In this case, a more detailed question could be, “how is AI technology developing in regards to e-commerce applications, who are the major players investing in it and what are the alternate techniques adopted?”
Patent Landscaping – Two Use Cases
To better understand how IP intelligence is used to create IP landscapes, two very different companies who used the landscaping process to improve their business intelligence are explored. Company A is a startup looking to launch a messaging application but they lack full visibility of the IP relating to their technology and want to better understand their market positioning. The second, Company B, is a large company with a diverse portfolio considering licensing with potential future competitors in a growing market segment and want to know where they could find licensees.
Being relatively new, Company A has yet to accrue many patents, so awareness of the patents held by their likely competitors is going to be important for them to understand things from a freedom to operate (FTO) perspective. Company B, on the other hand, has a large portfolio covering a wide range of subjects and is looking to demonstrate how and where their portfolio can be used to realise value and generate a revenue stream. With both objectives defined, the next step is to conduct a patent search.
Search & Requirements
Market research identifies useful information for patent searching such as known competitors, keywords, jargon/acronyms, essentially anything that is likely to appear in related patents. An iterative filtering process (Figure 1) then produces a set of patent data restricted to only those with a high confidence of being relevant to the subject matter required.
Figure 1 – The patent search process highlights key factors to ensure the most relevant results are returned
Once this patent data is in place, targeted analysis of the dataset ensures that relevant insights can be quickly and efficiently drawn from the results. The dataset may be categorised according to a companies’ own functional terminology so that analysis is relevant and understandable to them allowing focused insight into key areas as well as the broader, high-level view.
In our examples, Company A is looking to assess potential IP threats and risks to their business that could occur when launching their product, meaning that as well as understanding the technologies that are already protected, a clear understanding of patent holders, transactions, NPEs and litigation cases in their market will all be useful. So the information in the patent dataset is supplemented with additional research in these areas. Analysis of the dataset then identifies competitors that have strong IP and are active in defending it as well as companies with competing products but weak patent positions.
Company B has a more comparative requirement and needs to understand how their patents could impact the wider market, so analysis, in this case, is focused on highlighting areas of strength compared to known competitors. In both cases an overview of filing activity by time and geography help to identify general competitor and technology trends that provide useful context for the more targeted analysis that will follow.
Results from the landscape analysis for Company A uncovered several important insights, among them the fact that while large established companies held most patents in this area (Figure 2), as would be expected, these were largely in older techniques not as relevant to Company A’s’ products while a number of smaller and more direct competitors held only a handful of patents relating to their products. This meant that Company A’s’ existing IP position was in line with other companies of their size, and risks were moderated and understood more clearly.
Figure 2 – Patent filing timelines allow competitors’ IP strategy to be profiled and compared
For Company B, the patent landscape showed the relevant position of competitors in the market of interest based on patents held and available products. This highlighted competitors (Figure 3) with the strongest alignment to the market and IP, those with relevant IP but less product focus, and those with a lower number of filings despite a core focus on the technology in their products. This meant the company could understand in which cases they would likely have a strong position in any licensing discussions.
Figure 3 – Research identifies companies of greatest relevance and potential impact on a selected market
Further analysis of the data for Company A focused on understanding the likely use of patents within the landscape. By performing an in-house patent review based on market knowledge, the patents were assigned what was considered to be their core application, and review of this (Figure 4) showed the elements of Company A’s application that would face the most risk from existing IP owners. As well as this, a more detailed examination of technologies supporting these applications enabled application/technology combinations with a less mature filing trend and hence less restriction on available innovation to be identified.
Figure 4 – Patent review provides insight into which aspects of the market may prove most competitive
For Company B, categorisation based on existing data and patent similarity matching gave a customised technology breakdown for the entire landscape. Patents were assigned to core categories based on the specifications of the client’s portfolio, enabling a direct comparison in areas familiar to the client. This then allowed assessment (Figure 5) on a category-by-category basis of the level of filing and patent influence against each competitor and the landscape average.
Figure 5 – Matching techniques enable landscape data to be benchmarked against customised categories, revealing areas of influence or risk
Based on their landscape Company A was able to pursue patent protection for novel aspects of their application, developing areas of their existing product into new applications and greatly strengthening their IP position. Their investment in an IP landscape enabled them to make informed and strategic decisions regarding their IP, which in turn, lead to better positioning within their market.
Assessment of Company B’s landscape provided evidence of IP strength in core areas of the market against the most well-positioned competitors, displaying clear influence across a large range of categories, including several where it was originally assumed that the leading competitor would be clearly dominant. Company B was able to enter strategic negotiations with a clear awareness of their position to better formulate strategy and utilise additional leverage during licensing negotiations
With the Right Questions Asked, A Landscape will Provide Considerable Value
In both cases, the patent landscape enabled the client to make more informed decisions about their IP strategy and create value for their business. While database tools are an important part of developing an IP landscape, the interpretation and research analysis skills CVIP provided is what brought value to the clients. By tailoring each landscape to the specific customer’s business objective, CVIP was able to uncover new insights and provide a clear plan of action for each client to take.