Patent landscape analysis enables attorneys, portfolio managers, and others tasked with making critical IP-related decisions to provide more strategic advice to their stakeholders regarding innovation planning, patent protection, IP cost management, and the establishment and maintenance of a clear view of their market(s).
Despite these notable benefits, the time and cost involved prevents many firms and corporate IP teams from fully leveraging patent landscape analysis as a value-added service to their stakeholder groups.
In this post, we’ll look at the key questions a landscape report can answer and review how AcclaimIP software greatly facilitates both initial research and updates.
Conducting Thorough Analysis: Questions to Answer
Patent landscape analysis efforts typically deliver a detailed report based on specific goals and objectives; the report includes data, charts, search strings, graphs, and statistical trends for the IP practitioner to use in conversations with their stakeholders. This is a true value-add which attorneys and IP professionals can leverage to deliver more strategic advice and counseling to their key decision-makers.
A comprehensive patent landscape analysis looks at much more than the company of interest and its known competitors.
Here are some major questions to answer in your research:
- What is the geographical spread of a technology patent area?
- How saturated is this patent space?
- Who are the new entrants into a patent space?
- What changes have happened over time (time-slicing) and why is that?
- Are there underappreciated niche patent areas?
What is the Geographical Spread of a Technology Patent Area?
Understanding the geographical spread of IP in a technology area for a company-in-focus and its other critical stakeholders allows the patent landscape creator to give data-driven advice on where the client should be filing geographically and where they should not be filing to save patent prosecution counsel time and money.
- Country of Incorporation: It’s quite common (and often part of the National Statute of many countries) for companies to always file for patent protection in the country of their official incorporation, so simply knowing where a company originated usually sheds light on its main patent filing jurisdiction.
- Geographic Focus Area: Alternatively, geographical IP spread is also often a key indicator of where competitors and suppliers may be conducting critical research efforts, or where their manufacturing of key technologies is taking place (outside of their country of origination).
- Set Up Alerts: Knowing the geographic focus areas enables the company conducting landscape analysis to set up ongoing AcclaimIP current awareness alerts on the patenting activity from these critical research- and manufacturing-intensive regions in their industry.
Acclaim Country Chart: Geographical Intelligence
Figure 1 below shows an AcclaimIP Country Chart illustrating a jurisdictional breakdown of five companies all operating in the same industry (the telecommunications industry). Here’s the intelligence you can glean from this chart:
- The company represented by black, and the company represented by red are headquartered in South Korea and China, respectively, and their high levels of coverage in those countries is expected.
- The company represented by blue, while headquartered in the United States, has a high prevalence of patent publications in both Taiwan and India, quite likely due to their significant manufacturing presence in both of those jurisdictions.
- The company represented by orange is headquartered in a different country in Europe than Germany (DE), yet it has high publication coverage in that European jurisdiction. This high coverage has been self-reported by the company as a strategic decision that supports their preferred licensing efforts, where they choose to litigate and enforce competitive licensing efforts utilizing the patent courts of Germany over other patent courts of the European Union.
- Finally, the company represented by green has a consistent, broad jurisdictional spread across all the top ten jurisdictions of this industry, likely showing a restrained filing approach that aims to extend enforcement potential globally.
How Saturated is This Patent Space?
Determining the saturation level of a specific technology patent space enables attorneys and IP professionals to counsel their management or clients on the potential rewards or perils of entering that space.
For example, if a client is considering investing in, or developing, a new drug technology, a comprehensive assessment of the patents and drugs currently existing or pending in the market, along with details about competitors and other related data, is critical. The results of that research will guide company leadership in their decision to continue with research, development, and patent prosecution in that proposed new drug space.
Patentability Search vs. Patent Landscape Analysis
Since it can be difficult to get claims in a technology area that is in a highly patent-saturated space, it is critical that your research explores opportunities from a larger universe of patents covering potential alternative technologies.
In a basic patentability search, you are SPECIFICALLY looking for potential prior art directed to only the claims of a new filing. If it’s in a highly saturated patent area, you will likely get a lot of records back from that search.
In contrast, a full patent landscape analysis allows you to see high saturation more easily for an ENTIRE technology area at a much higher level than single, disparate patentability searches being conducted ad hoc over time for individual claims sets. The comprehensive, high-level approach taken during patent landscape analysis can help business and R&D management make long-term decisions about the need to pivot critical technology to newer inventive spaces as they see patent saturation in their mature technology areas hit alarmingly high levels.
Good patent landscape analysis helps you uncover what you otherwise might miss.
Going Beyond Known Competitors
In conducting both patentability research and ongoing current awareness, some practitioners will search only direct competitors. They typically do this because they don’t have the time to review patent publications coming into weekly alerts when alert record volumes increase with search term broadening. And, in the case of patentability searching, many searchers often narrow their focus to direct competitors because a single reference or small group of references is all they need to prove or disprove new claim patentability.
With thorough patent analysis, you will instead purposely search more broadly and allow the landscaping software to break apart broad data sets in a different way than a patentability keyword, a company name, or even a CPC code search approach would typically segregate a patent dataset. This breakdown can be accomplished using AcclaimIP’s landscape matrices (see Figure 2 below).
Who are the New Entrants into a Patent Space?
Since the results of this type of broad search are more technology-based vs. industry-based, you are often able to discover new technology areas coming into your own space from either:
- Small, new-entrant companies intent on directly competing with you; or
- From other industries that are developing their own technologies with key technical characteristics that have the potential to be adapted to your own industry.
Additionally, when you’ve already been confronted with a highly saturated technology space regarding your mature technology portfolio, this research may allow you to steer your mature products or services into newer, more open technology areas.
Figure 2A/B: The AcclaimIP Landscape Matrix feature allows you to take a huge set of patent records and break them down quickly into buckets of patents you would not normally consider.
Using the AcclaimIP Landscape Matrix to Identify Technology Areas
In the example shown in Figure 2, the patents of a global car manufacturer (with a large patent portfolio of over 170,000 patent publications) were broken down into technology buckets using the AcclaimIP Landscape Matrix technology-specific bucketing software.
- The company’s matters related directly to autonomous driving technology (~900 publications) were identified and then compared to an automotive industry supplier developing its own autonomous driving technology portfolio (~1095 publications).
- The two comparable portfolios were then matrixed in AcclaimIP to compare the two companies’ autonomous driving technology approaches.
- In Figure 2A, the global car manufacturer is clearly investing heavily in LIDAR technology as the technological foundation to their autonomous driving development.
- In Figure 2B the small automotive industry manufacturer has clearly taken a different approach. Their technology development relies more on cameras and specific software geared towards each aspect of the autonomous driving experience.
Uncovering Competitive Plans
A methodical approach to patent landscape analysis also provides deeper market analysis from a purely business perspective. An exhaustive landscape assessment can reveal principal patent holders in those adjacent technology spaces (pointing out new entities previously unknown to business management) to:
- Help determine if those patent holders are actively planning to compete with your client/company
- Provide insight into competing products that may soon hit the market and potentially disrupt your sales pipelines
What Changes Have Happened Over Time and Why?
A fourth crucial area of your patent landscaping research should track competitive patent owners and their IP coverage as it evolves over time. This is also often called “time slicing”.
Time slicing puts critical patent data into context when it comes to changes in competitive patenting that quite often shifts over time. These time changes can include alterations to technology focus, geographical coverage, or granted patent renewal strategy. Without this insight, context assumptions about a competitor’s IP and business strategy can become skewed and not truly represent that competitor’s current reality. For example:
- Has a competitor left a geographical region or a technical area? Why is that?
- Are they not innovating or intending on selling products in that technical area any longer?
- Have they expanded their geographical coverage into other regions, as well as into other technical areas?
Time-slicing can help to illuminate these over-time changes so that the patent landscape creator can give their audience an accurate picture of what is going on with competitors and other stakeholders important to the company of focus.
One Example: AcclaimIP Evolution Charting
In the example below (Figure 3) a large multinational electronics company announced in the early 2000s that they were going to cease research and development in a major product category to free up resources in the pursuit of newly identified technologies.
- In Figure 3A (with no time-slicing shown) the abandoned technology patents (represented in blue by the CPC areas the abandoned technology was assigned to) were mapped against the remainder of their patent portfolio (represented in green by the CPC areas the kept/newly created technology was assigned to).
- In the top twenty CPC-assigned areas of the company, Figure 3A shows that the abandoned technology represents a majority of their patent portfolio versus the non-abandoned technology (~10,000 matters versus ~6500 matters).
- In contrast, In Figure 3B, when time-slicing is added to the graphic, we can clearly see the almost complete cessation of patent matters in the abandoned technology CPC assignments by the year 2016.
Figure 3A/B: The AcclaimIP Evolution Charting Function allows you to quickly time-slice patent matters to be able to understand changes in matter data over time.
Are There Under-Appreciated Niche Patent Areas?
Niche technologies are often described as focused, specialized areas of technology that fall under the umbrella of a larger technology field. Often, a company that is already known to directly compete with a patent landscape analysis company-of-focus will begin to experiment with new technologies, which usually leads to the filing of a handful of patent applications directed to that niche area.
The Challenge of Uncovering Niche Areas
There are a couple reasons why niche patent areas can be hard to identify:
- Since that niche area usually makes up a very small number of patent publications in comparison to a company and an industry’s more traditional technology areas, those matters get lost in the “noise” of larger volumes of more easily understandable technology patent publications.
- During traditional competitor searches (as part of general current awareness initiatives), those searches that begin with a competitor name are often broken down into broad technical categories to send relevant results lists to internal subject-matter experts for their specialist review. Because of this, niche technology from competitors is usually discarded as these matters don’t neatly fit into the aforementioned broader, traditional, and well-established technical categories.
Surfacing Niche Patent Areas with AcclaimIP
Patent landscape analysis works to “bubble up to the surface” niche technology filings in more traditional technology areas by allowing for broader technology-specific queries to be run and for problem statement queries to be generated. This approach is in direct contrast to competitor-driven queries and solution statement-derived queries (which is exactly what patentability queries are all about) that are routinely undertaken by companies outside of patent landscaping analysis work.
Niche technology publications can be easily brought to light with AcclaimIP’s patent landscaping analysis software because the underlying algorithms work to put small numbers of matters related to a single technology area (i.e., a new niche area) on an equal footing with large volumes of publications from more mature technology areas. These algorithms are fine-tuned to look for key solution statements in patent publications and separate out identified solutions into distinct groups, no matter how big or small in patent volume a resulting grouping may be.
Without AcclaimIP’s software, the time and effort to find and analyze small sets of niche patents “hiding” in massive datasets would be too much for most organizations to effectively and timely report on for business decision-making purposes.
The AcclaimIP Technology Dashboard
In Figure 4 below, the AcclaimIP Technology Dashboard Feature was used to propose a problem statement to the global patent database, resulting in the dashboard shown.
- The company at position number one of the Dashboard Top Patent Owners chart has no more than 45 matters related to the proposed problem, yet the total patent results set size of it and the next six assignees charted in this Top Patent Owners graph equals over 175,000 individual matters.
- It isn’t until we get to the company shown at position number eight that we finally encounter an organization that is clearly focusing a major percentage of its resources on the niche technology that has been brought to light by the problem-statement-query exercise. This company has ~25 matters related to the niche technology, but those 25 matters make up ~33% of its entire patent portfolio.
- This company, therefore, is not only developing in the niche technology area (and is shown in parity with much larger companies of interest), but it’s a clear example of a small start-up potentially disrupting in an industry that is filled with bigger, more traditional companies that have massive patent portfolios.
Updating Your Patent Landscaping Analysis Easily
Ideally patent landscape analysis reports should be updated quarterly, or at a minimum every six months.
AcclaimIP helps you update your research much more quickly:
- Broad search histories can be saved and rerun as necessary, with charts quickly updatable
- Landscape matrices can be saved and updated without the need to completely recreate them at each update interval
- Evolution charting allows for the charting of multiple points of data over time to see what time-specific changes are occurring to the patents in focus
Third-Party Patent Landscape Analysis Services
For understaffed or smaller companies, as well as law firms seeking to provide IP guidance to their customers, Anaqua Services offers patent landscape analysis work product prepared by seasoned patent analysts. The resulting return on investment can be substantial.
Leverage our team of experts for projects including:
- Patent Searches
- Patentability Research
- Patent Landscape Analysis
- Evidence of Use
Using the AcclaimIP software, you can perform more robust competitive landscaping analysis easily, helping you answer many major questions critical to IP-related strategic planning, and then update that research easily on a periodic basis.
Written by Shayne Phillips, Director, Analytics Solutions, Anaqua
Categories: Patent Landscaping
Tags: Patent Data