India: An Insight Into Patent Landscape Analysis

Last Updated: 11 April 2018
Article by Monika Shailesh

Most Read Contributor in India, December 2018

Patent landscape analysis or 'Patent Mapping' is a comprehensive study and multi-step process, involving use of high of human intelligence and computer software to analyse a particular field of technology,to help large businesses, universities, start-ups and research organizations to understand the contemporary and future trends in a particular technology and explore rewarding business product development opportunities. As per World intellectual Property Right, "Patent landscape reports (PLRs) provide a snapshot of the patent situation of a specific technology, either within a given country or region, or globally. They can inform policy discussions, strategic research planning or technology transfer. They may also be used to analyse the validity of patents based on data about their legal status."1

A completed patent landscape analysis task consists of a set of technical references and associated analytics from which important legal, business, and technology information can be extracted. Patent mapping provides a real insight in to the technological space and helps businesses to find answers to some of the most critical questions. Patent landscape analysis by a knowledgeable patent expert, with both legal and technological understanding and having in-depth knowledge of intellectual asset management, provides end-users with valuable, actionable information. The value of PLR becomes multi-fold if the thought leaders from research and development, marketing, legal and business development groups are engaged during the process.

Patent Landscape Analysis is an in-depth analysis which sketches the details of the prevailing technology and the market trends in the concerned domain. It also gives a competitive analysis of the past, present and future trends in the concerned technical space which helps one to plan and innovate research strategy. This also helps to identify white spaces in the subject technology domain.

Image Source: ttconsultants.com/landscape-and-whitespace-analysis.php.

Significance of Patent Landscape Reporting

  1. It provides the current 'State-of-the-Art' for the researchers and innovators to learn important aspects of subject technology and allows them to potentially build, develop or even modify 'State-of-the-Art'.
  2. PLR provides corporates and business developers the knowledge about major technologies in the market pertaining to a business and its owners. This helps them to formulate plans and strategize for possible business ventures. It also helps business developers to plan acquisitions and mergers. PLR also helps businesses to compare their technology with competitors and asses the need of in/out licensing opportunities and to determine whether it makes more financial sense to develop the technology in-house.
  3. PLRs can be used as instruments to inform public policy makers for strategic decisions related to R&D investment, prioritization, technology transfer or local manufacturing. Patent information can and is increasingly being used as a tool to inform policymakers. Policymakers too, who deal with innovation, have increasingly focused on the patent system. They look for clearer, more accessible and geographically more representative information to support key policy processes. They seek a stronger empirical basis for their assessments on the role and impact of the patent system in relation to key areas.2
  4. PLRs use a very prudent data mining methodology to identify the patent filing trends, regionally and globally. The pattern or trend in patent filling enables marketing, competitive intelligence, commercial strategy, and human resource teams to gain an early insight to what technologies the competitors have in pipe line. It also helps to identify whether the technology under study is at its infancy, mature or declining phase and which helps in taking commercial decisions.
  5. PLR helps intellectual asset management by enabling the legal counsels to understand the relationship between competitive products and patent protection. PLRs are used to track and prevent any possible broad patent claim language to prevent any patent allocation that is not novel and is similar to already granted patents. This also helps to identify any potential patent infringement.
  6. PLRs are also used for 'White space analysis' which determines which patents are expiring or have not been maintained to form an overview of how 'crowded' or 'open' a technological area is.

Process of Preparing PLR

Preparing a PLR or conducting a Patent Landscape Analysis requires a comprehensive search for information. PLR is carried out in stages, with initial stage defining the overall purpose of the PLR.

The first stage helps the policy-maker or the decision-maker to identify the goal for PLR. Some of the common purposes of PLR are idea generation, 'white space' analysis, design around and competitive intelligence, patent filing strategy/patentability, risk management/validity/freedom to operate, monetization, and M&A. PLR involves meticulous data mining because any technological area has a vast pool of data that needs to be analysed. It is recommended that data mining or data analysis should be carried out with the help of a suitable computer aided program or software.

It is also very important to define the boundary conditions for the technical area / Technology in focus - this includes:

  • a deliberation on whether to include product terms, technology alternatives, multiple application areas in the search, and to agree on the goals and outcomes of the patent landscaping project.
  • Defining the regions and countries to be included in the boundary conditions, helps in narrowing down the vast area of analysis.
  • Time frame is also very important in order to define boundary conditions. Patent landscape analysis involves time stamping of events in a particular technology area, and this helps the interested party to understand the development of the technology area and to assess the stage of technology - whether it is in nascent stage, or in developing stage, or in the declining stage.

Perform preliminary searches across patents and technical literature and work with the team's technical and market experts familiar with the technology area to identify a set of relevant keywords, patent class codes and organizations working in the technical area.

Substance of PLR

Patent landscape reporting involves a substantial use of resources including numerous hours of hyper specialized human resources. It requires specialists with highly specific knowledge of legal and technical aspects of intellectual property rights. Often, involvement and expert guidance of senior management from Business Development, Human Resources and R&D departments is required for the purpose of setting the purpose of PLR. PLR requires access to numerous data sources and tools, and high level of training in bid data and specialized landscaping techniques. PLR indeed is a very cost extensive affair. Hence, the question arises - Is PLR worth spending fortunes upon?

CONCLUSION

PLR has proved to be a very significant tool for the policy-makers and decision-makers. It enables businesses to suitably direct their R&D activities, to explore technological spaces and guides corporate houses to leverage the intellectual property they own, by in-licensing and out-licensing. PLR also helps businesses to identify white spaces.

While PLR provides an insight for critical decision-making and policy-making, it also helps IPR owners to protect their patents by identifying and raising concerns towards frivolous and not novel patents with potential of patent infringement.

But, having highlighted some major advantages of PLR, the fact is that the technological area is ever changing and the landscape changes significantly every now and then, therefore, a PLR does not hold true for long time. Further, the long-term value of these elaborate and voluminous reports is sometimes questionable. Since PLR is a very cost extensive process, many believe that it is only useful to big multinational corporations. One of the WIPO reports cited "Concluding a comprehensive, definitive patent landscape in a major technological field such as HIV/AIDS treatments can be a massive endeavour, requiring considerable resources and expertise. It potentially entails an expert review of thousands of complex documents and fine assessments on their legal and technical content. A fully global landscape would strictly entail expert searches in over 100 patent offices worldwide. Any 'finished' report will be out of date within days, as further patent disclosures are published online. Keeping the landscape up-to-date for continuing reference can be just as resource intensive as its initial development. But the high cost and technical barriers are progressively declining. What once would have been a costly strategic landscape can now be prepared free of charge from a laptop with good Internet access." 3

In conclusion, against all the odds, PLRs still hold significant value and have seen substantial growth in the past. The McKinsey Global Institute conducted a Global Study (May 2011), on big data and upcoming analytical skills deficits titled "Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity". The report quoted, "There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions."

Footnotes



1 http://www.wipo.int/patentscope/en/programs/patent_landscapes/

2 http://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en

3 http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2008/04/article_0005.html

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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