How to Use a Patent Search for More Than Just Applying for a Patent
Author: Anna Nickerson
If you’re an inventor, odds are that you’ve thought about performing a patent search. Although patent searches are necessary for strategizing your own patent application, it is also a highly useful methodology in making more informed decisions as you develop your invention and grow your venture. You will be able to visualize your market, competition, and trends that will affect your invention. Read on to discover some key uses for your patent search…
- Market Landscape Search
Some research suggests that 80% of technical information is found in published patents. This means that the majority of the “gold” information and data you’re looking for are not easily accessible. You must prepare to really dig for it. But the good news is that it’s out there – in published patents! A market landscape consists of all the competitors, tools, technologies, and trends that make up a market. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds, so when performing a patent search and aiming to uncover more information about your market’s landscape, you must identify your goals and objectives of this search. What do you want to learn more about? Who do you want to identify? How far back in time do you want to search? In determining your goals, you’ll find that you have much more clarity as you approach the daunting process. The market landscape is constantly evolving, so this is not a one and done deal.
- Competitive Intelligence
Competitive intelligence is a big one that your patent search will help you with. Analysis of Intellectual Property could reveal key insights about competitors’ technology and innovation efforts. You will need to record a lot of data and information to make your insights worthwhile. After data collection, you can work with your team to analyze. Eventually, this competitive intelligence (derived from your research) will show you clear signs of any conclusions or recommendations worth evaluating.
When utilizing a patent search for this purpose, look at the frequency of specific technologies, equivalents of the patent internationally, the intellectual property activity of competitors (i.e. how often are they attaining patents?), and finally the citation history of each patent.
For example, if a relevant patent is highly cited, you’ve probably stumbled upon a core technology that other inventors are constantly aiming to improve and innovate upon. When looking at each competitor’s IP history, look for gaps (i.e. When was the last time they released a product? What new products has this competitor developed?). By examining this, you may be able to identify a market gap allowing you to be first-to-market.
- Business Intelligence
Business intelligence is a little different; while competitive intelligence is about examining the industry and competitive landscape, business intelligence focuses on the strategic process of your specific company. A patent search will help you identify your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks, which you can implement into the business strategy.
At the end of the day, your competitive advantage is your holy grail – you must protect it at all costs. In order to build the largest moat around your invention(s), you must understand your own risks and opportunities. Through performing regular patent searches, you can identify these factors that will guide internal, strategic decisions.
- Technology Trend Analysis
A patent search will also enable you to identify trends. You can discover broad industry trends or really narrow in on the specific product offering you’d like to look at. In utilizing a patent search, you will eventually determine a pattern in which IP is going, which will be helpful in your strategic efforts.
For example, if I had a patent in vehicles, I could utilize a patent search engine to identify the most recent patents (“sort by date”) and identify changes in the industry, or narrow down to type of vehicle. Technology trend analysis in a patent search will only be as good as your clearly defined objectives – don’t make assumptions!
- Tech Scouting
In the same vein, tech scouting is another empowering use of a patent search. Scouting technology is a process in which you (1) identify emerging technologies, (2) begin to implement relevant tech information into your own organization, and (3) use those technologies.
When analyzing technology development in a field, you cna look to published patent documents or patent applications to identify technological advancements. Utilizing this method in conjunction with your market landscape analysis and other research will yield exciting technology strategies for you to implement into your own invention, or business.
- Open Innovation
And finally, open innovation is the idea that firms should use both their own internal ideas as well as external ideas with the goal of advancing their technology. Through combining your research efforts and the five uses above, you will be able to identify your own competitive advantage as well as competitors’ ideas – both of which you can utilize to continuously innovate.
As you can see, there is way more to a patent search than just preparing for your patent application. A patent search will provide you with insight into your market landscape, competitive and business intelligence while also allowing you to identify industry trends you must pay attention to. All of this becomes massively important to consider before you invest more money and time into your invention. As a final note, it is imperative that you take the appropriate amount of time in researching and analyzing- hasty assumptions won’t help you succeed!
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