Starting with a search – Open vs Closed Innovation in the Post-COVID era

Starting with a search – Open vs Closed Innovation in the Post-COVID era (Part 2)

Traditionally, companies have used a closed patent strategy designed to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies from competitors. Patents remain a popular way of safeguarding original work, with almost 188,600 applications received by the EPO in 2021 – a 4.5% increase, showing a significant recovery from the small decline recorded in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The patent system benefits both the inventor and the general public. Inventors protect their inventions from imitation by disclosing information to the public, in exchange for owning a limited-time monopoly and securing a large share of the market. For the public, anyone with access to the patent data can improve upon, combine, or invent around the initial patented idea. It is rare for inventors to come up with a brand-new idea, therefore, having access to a high quality and comprehensive patent database is necessary for all innovative companies.

Companies that know what to look for in patent data can exploit patents in their favour. A prime example of patent exploitation is shown through the evolving nature of the smartphone market. A protectionist approach between Apple and Samsung regarding their intellectual property has led to the concurrent suing of the two tech giants over patents as smartphone technologies have become more closely linked. This defensive patenting might slow down competition, but it may also lead to stifled technological progress due to the trade-off between litigation and innovation.

The high costs and inefficiencies of infringement is one of the reasons that many companies are now seeking a more collaborative patent strategy. For example, Samsung has collaborated with top Android phone makers to share free patents covering Android and Google applications.

Why is commercialising your IP important?

Open Innovation consists of networking with other companies and R&D facilities; interacting with start-up ventures, public research institutes, universities, and external suppliers; and sharing outside information and technology. It does not refer to free knowledge or technology, this collaborative working will often still involve the (sometimes significant) payment of licence fees for IP, so companies are still able to benefit from having a monopoly on the invention and potentially even increase their bottom line with the addition of licencing fees.

Companies engaged in commercialisation activities are forming strategic alliances for a pro-active intellectual property strategy that aims at sharing technologies rather than hoarding IP as a defence mechanism. According to Acacia Research Corp., 99% of patent-licensing revenue in the US is generated by companies that own 40% of all US patents, therefore, the remaining 60% of patent holders are receiving just 1% of the revenue – there is a lot of money to be made here!

The complexity and uncertainty of the pandemic highlighted the pressing need to formalise new ways of innovating more widely and effectively. There is likely to be increased need in the future for further collaboration, including cross-sector and cross-national innovation, to address major public health challenges.


Whether a company is entering a new sector for the first time, or simply looking to license technology and establish collaboration agreements to increase revenue, formulating an effective IP strategy from the beginning is crucial.

As well as protecting innovations, patent information contains valuable insights that can assist companies in identifying new and emerging markets, monitoring the actions of competitors, and informing the company which parts of their portfolio are most valuable. Beyond this, patent data contains the technical details that allow inventors to build on the ideas of others and continue to innovate for the benefit of all.

Investing in the right tool to take advantage of this data is crucial for any innovative company. PatBase, the international patent search and analysis database, has one of the largest datasets in the industry, ensuring that your research encompasses information from all over the world and is quality checked daily. Intuitive search tools mean that even non-experts can interrogate the data and unearth strategic business and competitive insights. This can be combined with powerful alerting tools on your own or your competitors’ portfolios so you can monitor this data without even running a search.

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