A patent is an exclusive right granted to an invention by a sovereign authority. It can be a product, a process, a novelty or an improvement, or a solution to a problem. It plays an essential role in promoting innovation and development in all sectors. Inventors are granted exclusive rights to the process or design for a specified period of time (which varies by jurisdiction). In return, the author must provide information about the invention.
Patents promote and protect companies in research and development. The exclusivity granted by patents enables the monopolistic production and sale of works by a creator; Without this right to exclusivity, the inventors’ creations could be copied by others who have not invested in research and development. It is important to note that intellectual property rights are territorial in nature. The freedom of operation and patent analysis play an essential role in determining the legal status of the granted patent in a country.
“Tens of millions of published patents and patent applications are available for public review.” The sheer volume of knowledge makes it difficult to categorically weigh the value of the resources available and, consequently, the legitimacy of an intellectual property.
Patent landscapes (patent cards) provide a general trend towards patent activities and opportunities in certain areas of technology. It provides a constructive framework for answering specific policy-related questions and reflects complex information in a clear, concise format. Patent landscaping helps to make strategic decisions about investments and research and to develop a factual basis and insights into the activities of competitors (IIIPRD, 2016; Roman Kopytko)
By graphically displaying patent metadata, patent cards help organizations, investors and agencies to identify patents within a technology domain area, to correlate between different patents, to measure risks and to pay attention to injury zones.
Importance of patent design
Patent landscaping provides valuable business insight and a competitive advantage. Business strategies use the information, starting with the key players in the sector, to find available solutions, identify gaps and open up new hemispheres of opportunity in technology areas. Figure 1 shows the importance of patent landscape analysis when a company wants to bring its product to market.
In addition, companies are better equipped to develop new licensing strategies and improve their existing products, and only to determine the commercial value of existing patents. Net patent database searches only live patent details, with searches additionally limited to the jurisdiction (ie live patents are only searched within India or the USA depending on the filing country). If you have invented new methods of exchanging data over the Internet that you want to patent, certain violations may arise. Individuals or organizations have the option to purchase this patent, initiate a joint venture with the other party, or enter into a share agreement.
Figure 2: Patent Landscape Report for Electronic Waste Management (World Intellectual Property Organization, 2013).
Figure 2 shows a patent landscape report for electronic waste disposal. It shows extensive growth in patent families dealing with hazardous cadmium from batteries, battery dismantling, and use of conveyor belts for e-waste logistics and sorting from 2006 to 2010. The number of patent families increased from 1980 (50 families) to 2010 (650 families), with the majority of countries bordering the Asia-Pacific region (Japan, China), followed by the USA, Germany and Korea (World Intellectual Property Organization) , 2013).
Advantages of drafting a patent
Several companies want to understand their relative strengths and capitalize on the collateral. Individuals or organizations developing new mechanisms, tools, and technologies can rely on patent landscape reports. Risk assessments can be streamlined and the type of investments required can be assessed. The benefits include the ability:
- Identify all patents associated with a relevant technology.
- Measure the risks posed by other competitors.
- Avoid IP violations.
- Identify the type of investment required for research and development.
- Answer: Is your innovation “actually” an innovation?
- Understand the dynamics associated with underlying technologies.
- Protect the go-to-market by preventing IP violations.
The company that applies for an industrial property right is an applicant. It can be the inventor or a representative of the inventor.
Patent documents include filing date, priority date, publication and grant date. This date determines when inventions were developed, how much time it took to improve the application, and what changes were made to the previous draft upon filing.
Patents contain the title, abstract, description, and claims that define the scope of intellectual property. Boolean keyword search helps build queries to extract relevant results, for example: smartphone AND NFC technology AND gesture control. This query retrieves results that search Smartphones Using NFC and Gesture Control Technology.
Class codes are labels that are issued by the patent authority to classify patents. Patents have multiple class codes such as the US Class Codes (USPTO), European Classification Codes (ECLA), and Cooperative Patent Class Codes (CPC).
Patents have subject-relevant quotes that assess the accuracy of the information.
Every patent application contains at least one claim. It is imperative to include all the essential technical characteristics of the discovery, all the essential details necessary to solve the technical problems that gave rise to the innovation, and the evolution that the innovation brings with it.
Patents have unique family relationships known as family IDs. It can contain several publications of the patents and therefore develop a chain of relationships.
A step-by-step guide to analyzing and reporting patent landscapes
Figure 3: The patent landscape analysis (PLA) process (Trippe, 2015).
There is no known framework that defines the process of PLA. Figure 3 shows step-by-step instructions for a systematic PLA process (Smyth et al., 2013; Trippe, 2015).
Each country produces its own report. There are different considerations depending on the jurisdictions. The search parameters include a number of key words that are important for a product and that limit the search dimensions. After the initial assessment, one needs to understand the key components or features of their product.
Patent search sources include individual patent office websites such as IP India Services, Worldwide Espacenet (for global search), and USPTO (for the US).
If there is an IP violation, the design or process can be changed to evade the specific problem or meet the necessary requirements. Alternatively, applicants can use this as an early assessment to identify areas of collaboration, buying, and mutual agreements. If the product doesn’t infringe patents, the patent can be pursued if the technology is likely to meet the patent criteria. If you do not want to pursue the patent further, you can alternatively choose a “defensive publication” or a “technical disclosure”.
The automated process of performing a PLA is based on a set algorithm based on a collection of facts from the creator. Searching through large amounts of data (scientific papers, journals, reports) can be exhaustive, time-consuming and resource-intensive (Abood and Feltenberger, 2018; IRPD Solutions, 2020). Automated patent landscaping tools quickly implement keywords, search vast amounts of data, and provide a preliminary, graphical overview. The process is fast, known to be less accurate (less than 80%) and great for people who want to review information quickly (IRPD Solutions, 2020). Examples of automated tools are: (Abood and Feltenberger, 2018; IP Checkups, 2017):
- The patent lens
- Clarify analytics
- CPA Global
- Lexis Nexis
Patent design takes a lot of time and resources; Many who conduct such assessments are unaware of the technology involved or lack relevant scientific skills. Improving search methods, using appropriate keywords and commercial tools will increase accuracy. PLA plays a vital role in determining the value of your product by providing the company with a pre-assessed playground to hit. With a PLA you can avoid IP violations, modify your products or make alternative implementations of your processes. The associated costs pale in comparison to the litigation costs that may be associated with future violations. Companies are exposed to less risk while being able to measure innovation in addition to budgeting for research and development. Preliminary analysis using automated tools may be recommended for quick information, with the caveat that the analyst must have the specific qualifications and scientific background necessary to conduct the search, identify keywords, technology, and understand scientific methods are required.
Dr. Vinod Surana is the Managing Partner and CEO of Surana & Surana International Attorneys. Views are personal.
Abood, A. and Feltenberger, D. (2018) ‘Automated Patent Landscaping’, Artificial Intelligence and Law, 26 (2) Springer Netherlands, pp. 103–125. Available at: 10.1007 / s10506-018-9222-4 (Accessed October 16, 2020).
IIPRD (2016) Fundamentals of Patent Landscape Design., Medium.com Available at: https://medium.com/@iiprd/basics-of-patent-landscaping-68b21000c012 (Accessed October 16, 2020).
IP Checkups (2017) Overview of Patent Landscape Analysis. Process, benefits and results. Available at: https://www.ipcheckups.com/blog/patent-landscape-analysis-overview/ (accessed October 16, 2020).
IRPD Solutions (2020) When Are Automated Patent Landscape Tools Used?., Evalueserve Available at: https://www.evalueserve.com/patent-landscaping-to-use-or-not-to-use-automated-patent-landscape – tools / (accessed October 17, 2020).
Roman Kopytko (2017) The Basics of the Patent Landscape., Wellspring Available at: https://www.wellspring.com/blog/the-basics-of-patent-landscaping (accessed October 16, 2020).
Smyth, SJ, McPhee-Knowles, S., Baker, A. and Phillips, PWB (2013), “Developing a Patent Landscape Method,” Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property, 3 (3), pp. 251-266. Available at: 10.4337 / qmjip.2013.03.05 (accessed October 18, 2020).
Trippe, A. (2015) Guidelines for the Preparation of Patent Landscape Reports. Available at: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo_pub_946.pdf (accessed October 19, 2020).
World Intellectual Property Organization Patent Landscape Report (2013) on Technologies for Recycling E-Waste. Basel Convention. Available at: www.wipo.int/patentscope/en/programs/ (accessed November 12, 2020).