Strategic Use of Patent Information
~Andy Gibbs, first published in April, 2009, www.ipfrontline.com
Companies that practice faster R&D cycles develop
higher quality patents, gaining competitive advantage in the marketplace.
For the purposes of this paper, innovation is defined
as the "Advancement of Applied Technology".
At the lowest level, innovation is a process used
by engineers and inventors. However, from a higher level, innovation
is a process that can drive a corporation's overall process of R
& D and corporate strategic development.
Still further, the innovation process spills over
into many operational areas within an organization other than R&D,
namely, marketing, legal, finance, and corporate strategy.
Each of these organizational departments, as well
as the engineers and inventors, benefit greatly by applying patent
information to the various R&D to corporate strategy processes.
What is Patent Information?
"Patent Information" is the information
- within a patent
- about a patent or group of patents
Patents comprise an archive that documents the progress
of applied technology through history. An estimated 80% of the information
contained in patents is available nowhere else, establishing patents
as one of the move valuable technology rich information resources.
Patent information can be (a) Explicit, and (b) Implicit,
EXPLICIT patent information is that
which is readily discernable by a person reading a patent.
Such explicit data fields include:
- Patent Title,
- Patent Number,
- Patent Filing and Issue Dates,
- Inventor Name,
- Applicant Name,
- Patent Abstract,
- Patent Citations / References,
- Description of the Invention,
- Patent Claims,
IMPLICIT patent information is more
difficult to extract from patent documents, but in many ways is
much more valuable to the innovation process. Implicit information
derived from patent analysis is typically:
- Qualitative: information closely tied to a particular
- Quantitative: information derived primarily through the application
of a statistical process that's usually applied across a group of
Examples of implicit patent information include:
- Number of Patents Owned by the Same Applicant,
- The Number of Patents Competing Within Particular
- The Quality of a Patent - or of a Portfolio of
- The Scope of Protection Afforded by the Claims,
- Industry Trends
- Intelligence Regarding Competitors' R&D Activity,
Cycle Times or Focus.
Patent Information may take the form of table data,
graphs, pie charts, bar charts, patent "maps" of other
graphic presentation. Visualization is an effective method of viewing
and interpreting the result of an analysis of a large group of patents.
Why Use Patent Information to Promote the
Since patents establish the "state of the art"
in any particular applied technology, at any point in time they
define the starting point for subsequent innovation
advancement. When patent prior art is deeply assimilated throughout
the organization, higher quality innovations will emerge more quickly.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)i
has found that patent information is used:- To Promote Creative
Thinking and Problem Solving
- To Guide Strategic Management of Research and
- To support management decisions related to Licensing
and Litigation Strategy
- To Value Intellectual Assets for Mergers and Acquisitions
Companies are often slow to build
innovation strategies that rely heavily on patents, many times because
patents appear to be too complicated to understand, because management
thinks too much time will be spent reading patents and not inventing,
or management thinks that access to patent information is too costly.
The earliest patents received by a company within
any particular technology area typically deliver the highest long-term
value. Nagaokaii shows us that a company committed to systematically
using prior art will realize a faster R&D cycle, and will obtain
more valuable patent protection on higher quality innovations.
Since the first-to-file rule determines who wins the
technology race, it's important to quickly produce inventions that
obtain the broadest patent claims.
A recent study commissioned by the European Patent
Organization (EPO)iii showed that the innovation leaders in US and
Europe that relied heavily on the use of patent information developed
higher quality innovations, and gained competitive advantage over
their counterparts that used patent information rarely, or not at
As the leaders continue to develop higher quality
patents and gain more market share, 80% of them said that they need
even more information on competitors and markets, followed by information
The most innovative companies are most interested
in (decreasing order):
1. Technology watch
2. Competitor watch
3. Market watch
4. Alerting services
5. Advisory services
This report also showed that over 80% of all companies
regard patent information as being of moderate or high value, primarily
using patent information in predevelopment (68%), development (62%)
on checking infringement (48%) or continuously as part of their
business process (29%).
Although patent offices provide free Internet access
to patent data, around 60% of the 1,900 companies interviewed during
the EPO study believed that paying for commercial services that
could deliver the Implicit Patent Information is justified given
the strategic value of the integrated analytics and visual information
On the other hand, many SMEs (small to mid-sized companies with
fewer than 500 employees) had little understanding of how they would
actually use the patent information; they had no idea what contribution
patent information can actually make to their innovation process.
"Patent Information" is much more than "Patent
The following case study briefly illustrates how explicit patent
information is extracted from a patent database, then shows how
implicit information maybe derived from those patents.
One scenario then shows how this patent information
can be strategically applied to the innovation process.
Patents contain a wealth of TECHNICAL, COMMERCIAL,
and LEGAL information - most all of which can be applied to accelerate
the innovation process. Before patent information can be appropriately
mined and applied, the objectives must first be established.