Business intelligence: the importance of a strong patent strategy

Transforming patent data into actionable technical, legal and business intelligence is a priority for any innovation-driven organisation with a strong IPR (intellectual property rights) culture. Patents are often the first published evidence of a new product or process in the public domain, and a significant volume (commonly cited as between 70 and 80 per cent) of the world’s technical and scientific information is only ever made available in patents.

The systematic retrieval and assessment of patent data can provide a window onto competitor activity, offering insights into technology trends and R&D activity, and identifying competitors and potential partners. Implementing a competitive intelligence (CI) programme that centres on published patent information can help shape corporate strategy and steer R&D efforts. As awareness of the value of patent information as a source of commercial insight across industries grows, we examine how this information can be harnessed with increasingly sophisticated patent search and analysis software.

Analysing patent data for business intelligence

 Tapping into patent data by performing a search on free or commercial databases is just the start of the journey to gain actionable intelligence. Visualisation and analysis of large patent data sets of tens of thousands of patents at one time can be performed using third party stand-alone analysis or landscaping tools, or increasingly within a patent search database. Analysis based on criteria including geography, technology area , company, publication year, keywords and legal status information can be carried out to identify areas for further research, view competitor activity trends over time and spot gaps in the market.

Patent analysis can be applied both internally and externally, with internal analysis allowing an organisation to assess its own patent portfolio and understand strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for growth or licensing of certain technologies. External patent analysis i.e. gaining information on competitors is a widely used approach. Patent landscape studies are growing in popularity as a means for organisations to get a grip on their strategic position within the industry, and to assess the value of their patent portfolios. Software such as Minesoft’s PatBase Analytics has been used to create patent landscape studies in areas of particular significance, such as autonomous vehicles or artificial intelligence.

Example of patent analysis for business intelligence in autonomous vehicles technology area

Maintain a competitive edge

Whilst undertaking periodic analyses of competitor patent portfolios or the patent landscape in a particular field is one certain way to gather business intelligence, systematically monitoring newly published patent information provides a complimentary and highly effective way of keeping an eye on the competition.

A named competitor or patent assignee watch (which alerts recipients to any new applications filed by assignees of interest) is one of the most requested services offered by IP law firms, providing an insight into the R&D activities and priorities of a client’s competitor, customer or supplier. Automated current awareness alerts can be set up in PatBase to monitor the latest published patent literature in a certain technology area or originating from competitors.

Monitoring patent information is not limited to watching named competitors or fields of technology. Services are available that enable users to gain business intelligence from patents from a different angle. For example, services to automatically track the status of individual patent applications or very specific elements of patent information such as legal status events or citations. Automating the process saves time and costs, also eliminating the need to scour different websites carrying out weekly manual checks. Minesoft’s Legal Status Tracker service, for example, tracks changes to INPADOC, USPTO PAIR, JPO, SIPO, DPMA and INPI data. Patent professionals can be alerted to even the slightest change in legal status of patents within their own or their competitors’ portfolios, such as opposition filings, applications being withdrawn or grants in certain countries. Concise email reports contain links to patent registers for further real-time legal status information.

Patents offer a well-codified, fully searchable and readily available pool of competitive and business intelligence waiting to be exploited with advanced tools developed by a few companies specialising in this field. Those diving in are faced with challenges of volume and accessibility, but perseverance and employment of specialist patent databases and software that automate many of the processes will pay off in terms of the wealth of insights to be gained.

Analysing patent information undoubtedly will help an organisation improve its overall understanding not only about competitors but about how it relates to the global field of activity. Importantly, it can give a more informed basis for business decisions about the future direction of the company and due to this, patent information and patent analysis is being given more weight in board rooms, a healthy indicator for IP Professionals.

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Minesoft’s Moira Sivills recently wrote an article explaining how different patent strategies can be used for business intelligence purposes, read her article here.