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A Powerful and Simple Patent Landscape Technique

By Erik Reeves, CTO of Anaqua

It is often understood that Patent Landscaping is hard – really hard. Many believe that it is just for those with advanced technical and legal training with hundreds of hours to spend. But what many fail to realize is that pretty much anyone can become more intimate with their IP ecosystem and enhance the value of their intangible assets. It is a fact that anyone can patent landscape with the right tools.

Why It’s so Important to Master

Becoming an expert in patent landscaping can help you understand your current and future competitive landscape, ‘whitespace’ gaps in technology that are opportunities for innovation and potential patents for acquisition or for strategic partnership.

Patent Landscape analysis is typically conducted to understand one or more of the following:

  • Understand the IP for products and technologies important to your enterprise’s present and future
  • Identify key technology players and their relative IP strengths
  • Discover areas for white space inquiry, Freedom-to-operation (FTO)/patentability
  • Understand your competitors, upstream and downstream partners, and potential acquisition/acquirer targets (i.e., your IP ecosystem) and their IP holdings and trending
  • Tracking the evolution of a landscape relative to active IP development and/or R&D

To better manage your patent strategy, here is one of the best patent landscaping techniques that you should follow.

The Company – Technology Matrix

One of the most common types of landscape analysis and one of the most common starting questions of any manager or analyst is about the company, its IP holdings, and the competitors’ holdings (usually broken out by areas of technology). This type of analysis answers the basic question:

“What have we got and how does that compare to our competitors?”

Whether the analysis is done or not, the question should be asked because there is great value in understanding the totality of IP holdings, not just from a pure competitive standpoint. For example:

  • Who are our key collaborators on new technology development?
  • Who are potential acquisition targets or incubators for new tech development? – and if you aren’t at least exploring Open Innovation concepts, you are likely missing out big time on opportunities.
  • Upstream, downstream supply-chain and clients/customers. In particular, knowing what your key supply-chain partners are doing R&D-wise can be critical to future product and IP road mapping.
  • Who are our licensing partners (in and out) and how does the licensing landscape map to the overall ecosystem?
  • What is the trending of IP development for our ecosystem (areas of growth/decline, emergent areas, etc.)?

So how to get started? Start modestly. Identify some basic parameters to characterize your areas of technology interest and then make a list of a few key competitors, partners, etc.

If you are struggling with articulating the technology categories in a meaningful way, don’t worry about it. There is an incredibly easy way to get started. Take your company’s portfolio (or a company that you think covers well some of the key areas of technology of interest to you) and do a quick view of the top classes represented – you can use this as your seed.

This example below is a helpful way to quickly see major areas of IP development internally and the associated most active players in each of those areas using one of the official patent classification systems

You can also quickly view the class trending in the dashboard:

Once you have a few areas of technology (defined by classes or terms, or both) and a few companies, you are ready to do the analysis, which really amounts to the set intersection of these variables (i.e., Company A has how many patents in each of these areas of technology I have defined).

Here is an example of the Company/Technology Landscape view:

Bottom line – this represents activity for various companies in several categories of product technology (in this case, mobile phones).

Hopefully these examples get you a little bit excited about the technique and its utility – and always remember, start small and iterate.