India: Patents: A Tool for the Technological Intelligence

Last Updated: 21 July 2005
Article by Vinod Singh

Patents are the largest source of technological information. Patent are given to the inventor as a reward for its innovation in the form of the exclusive right of the monopoly for a period of 20 years from the priority date of the invention. Due to advancement in the IT sector and internet, now these valuable documents are in the reach of the general public. Any person skilled in the art can go through various patent databases and after a search can get the patent document of their need. There are different patent databases viz, USPTO, EPO, JPO, etc freely open for the public access. If we go through the patents related to a specific technological area, we will be able to find the lots of information about the life cycle of the technological innovation viz.,

  • evolutionary path of a specific technology,
  • technological development,
  • technological diversification,
  • technology merges,
  • major players in specific technological area,
  • key points of the specific technology,

"The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) revealed that 90% to 95% of all the world’s inventions can be found in patented documents."

Patent analysis can reveals very valuable informations, which is not available anywhere. After patent search the crucial part is the patent analysis, and one have to be very concise about their objective of the study. The information in the patent documents can be utilized in different form according to the need and mapped accordingly to get the picture of the entire analysis in snapshots.

Patent data can be used for the preparation of technological landscapes. Logistic mathematics and circle mathematics can be very useful in the plotting of the technological landscape. It can reveal the evolutionary trend of a technology, how it is evolved from a basic technology, along with the period of the technological diversification and its nature. These maps will also give the detailed overview of the merging of the different technologies to give rise to break-through technologies. These types of maps will be very useful for the R&D personals to evaluate the position of their research and technology, and also they will find way to more innovate more advanced and valuable technology.

In the today’s global context firms need to know what technologies can competitors choke easily, and may be attempting to. They also need to know the spaces in technologies where competition is intense, and the areas where competitors are concentrating their IP development and their R&D efforts. They need to be able to track patent acquisition and development strategies and chart out the competitive landscape. To evaluate technology before making any investment decision, firms need to know the pace of patenting activity in the technology, which patents embody fundamental ideas in the technology and how vulnerable the firm’s technologies are to patent infringements. This will give them much needed information in deciding between technology development and technology acquisition.

The ability to extract relevant information from patent literature is a crucial success factor for anyone involved in technological innovation. The technology mapping technique’s that can be used to transform patent information into knowledge that can influence decision-making.

Patents are an important source of technological intelligence that companies can use to gain strategic advantage. Technology Intelligence is a can be used for gathering, analyzing, forecasting, and managing external technology related information, including patent information. Computational patent mapping is a methodology for the development and application of a technology knowledgebase for technology and competitive intelligence. The primary deliverables of patent mapping is in the form of knowledge visualization through landscape and maps. These maps provide valuable intelligence on technology evolution/revolution, nature of various types of pioneering; big; pure; and emerging players, state-of-the-art assessment, etc.

These types of technological maps will prove to be a valuable multiplier in R&D and commercialization activities, in various ways including the following:

  • Developing further insights in response to strategic requirements and policy formulation in the organization;
  • Forecasting and identifying technological activities and trends in the industry;
  • Aiding in the visualization of alternative development and growth paths available to the organization;
  • Enabling pre-emptive recognition and action on potential licensing opportunities;
  • Identifying prospective partners and clients;
  • Identify technology discontinuities and areas of opportunities in their chosen technologies;
  • Monitor and evaluate the technological process of competitors and potential competitors
  • Support decisions on foray and investment into particular technologies and sub-technologies;
  • Surveillance of technological progress of competitors as well as to alert oneself to new entrants to the field;
  • Spotting of white spaces or opportunity areas within a dense technological domain;
  • Creative tool to simulate new ideas and create new IP;
  • Complementing corporate IP filing strategies;
  • Support technology proposals for large scale national and international level projects;
  • Support investment and technology due diligence on companies;

Patent mapping can be an integral part of IP management. It can uncover valuable information hidden in patents and can provide useful indicators for technical trends, market trends, competitors changes and technological profile and innovation potential of a company. Patent maps are visual representations of patent information that has been mined and aggregated or clustered to highlight specific features. There is a high degree of flexibility in visualization, which may be in the form of time-series or as spatial maps. We provide a more market and technology oriented analysis of the complete set of patent portfolio assets via our patent mapping services. Patent mapping can be used to ascertain the quality of patents with respect to prevailing technology and the extent to which patents affect the technology. This is a valuable input in technology sourcing/development and R&D decisions. Patent mapping can be indispensable for both firms that have an under-utilized patent profile and are looking to license/assign it at the most favorable terms, as well as to firms that are looking at developing patent portfolio strength in a particular technological field.

Mere subject specialization is not enough for this, but analytical thinking and innovations are very essential. Today lots of software resources are available for mapping the patent data, but almost all are confined to bibliographic informations. The machine work cannot be compared with that of human intelligence. Patent mapping requires many skills. First and foremost among these is an ability to understand the complex scientific ideas protected by the patents themselves. Although it is possible to create a patent map by analyzing the relationships between patents without understanding the subject matter, such a map is often useless and needs to be refined by someone who understands the intricacies of the particular scientific discipline that is the basis of the invention. Thus, I expect that the need for people with scientific (and engineering) expertise in the field of patent mapping is on the increase. That’s why today lots of KPO firm are looking for the right individual and there is a huge demand today, which will certainly increase in the near future.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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