By CPA Global News ‑ March 24, 2021
By Dupre-la-Tour Stéphane, Gregoire Sandra, Lucidarme Thierry, and Olivier Fabien at EDF Lab Saclay-France
For any company or organization which has a focus on R&D, Intellectual Property (IP) plays an important role in strengthening its position in the global scientific field. Analyzing the evolution of filed patents for a given technology can help provide a greater understanding of that technology’s maturity as far as R&D is concerned, providing the opportunity to secure a competitive advantage.
Using IP intelligence and data in collaboration with CPA Global, we have conducted a study focused on Battery technologies, deriving five main findings:
Our research also raised some key, though speculative, questions, from the technological and geographical concentration related to disruptive innovation.
Today, decisive and effective IP management is a key priority for organizations where R&D plays an important role. Researchers and patent attorneys need to strike the balance between having the best protection for a given invention and the cost the company will have to endure for its protection. While filing a patent is relatively straightforward, effective monitoring and protection is more intricate, raising a number of questions, including, for example: whether the study, protection or industrialization of a particular technology is concentrated in a certain country, and if the technology is still early in its development or close to maturity. These are the kind of factors that, for innovators and IP lawyers, may determine whether or not to keep a patent alive.
The present study aims to demonstrate the value of seeking to answer such questions by conducting statistical analysis to infer global findings and help to drive some of the related development strategy of the technology under review and to anticipate future trends.
The work presented below has been drawn from the IP department of “Electricité De France” (EDF) using CPA Global’s IP software program “Innography”. Finally, this study is based, as a case study example, on the scientific area of battery and storage technologies within which EDF has developed significant expertise.
1. Establishing the drivers behind a reduction of filed and published battery technology applications in the last decades.
First, the study has focused on the evolution of patent applications concerning all the technologies of batteries provided by the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) in its Y02T, Y02E or H01M classification. The results, presented in Figure 1 below, are striking.
Firstly, a trend in patent filing emerges with a constant and significant growth of filed patents between the years 2008 to 2018. The 2019 data are not representative at the time the study was made because of the time gap between filing and publication.
Secondly, as shown in Figure 1, it can be noticed that the Li-ion technology represents a large majority of the patent applications filed. This is not really a surprise as these type of batteries are widely used in portable electronic devices or now in electric mobility.
Figure 1 Evolution of patent applications concerning Battery technologies per year
However, at this stage, we need to magnify the other technologies in removing the Li-Ion to be able to draw some conclusions on them. These remaining technologies are:
The Figure is giving the result.
Figure 2 Evolution of patent applications concerning Battery technologies per year, except Li-Ion
On this figure, the metal-air category has been split into three Metal-Air category (Zn, Al, Li). Two conclusions may be made from this figure: the relative stability of the Lead-Acid patent applications over time with a strong decline in 2018 and the relative growth of Redox Flow and SSB technologies since 2010.
The Lead-Acid decline might be explained by some large scale strategic change done by the Chinese government to orientate five years plans and state means (university, research institutes) and state owned enterprises towards more promising technologies.
2. Trends point towards the Li-Ion patent application filings in Mainland China.
Looking at the figure 3, we can output the following findings:
Figure 3: Area of filings for Li-Ion technology
Looking more closely to the applicants, one can detect:
Another interesting aspect to look at is the extension strategy of Mainland China compared to the one of Japan for instance.
This is shown in Figure 4:
Figure 4: Different strategy of extensions for Li-Ion technology
It is then interesting to note that actors in Mainland China turn more towards their internal markets with a national application only as it might provide a well responding visibility and response to the political impulsion of the system. Looking at the Japan’s expansion strategy, we found a more classical mix targeting a broader international protection.
3. New trends at a glance
As we mentioned the smallest but visible trends of Redox Flow and SSB batteries, we now look to where these technologies are apt to be filed in the world and by who.
Dealing with Redox Flow, we have noticed a growth of filings since 2010 as shown on Figure 5. Mainland China and USA are the growing actor for the technology.
Figure 5: Redox Flow filings distribution between 2000 and 2018
When it comes to SSB (Solid State Battery), there is a growing interest of Japan, likely motivated by the automotive industry - with Toyota as a leader having almost half of the applications publications in 2018- and South Korea for the same reason.
Since 2017, the will to invest in the SSB technology of Mainland China can be detected, with a lot of applicants owning very few applications each.
Figure 5: SSB filings distribution between 2000 and 2018
Finally, in our trip in the databases of patents for battery technologies we would like to highlight a qualitative trend that seems worth mentioning: The patents seem to be more “systems” than ten years ago, targeting the applications and the manufacturing process. We feel that roughly in 2017 only one third of the applications were dealing with the fundamental chemistry of the battery and two thirds were more about the applications (automotive, mobility, vehicle…) and the manufacturing process. It was the opposite in 2012.
By using Innography for this study, we have been able to assess trends concerning battery technologies with a worldwide outlook. As we have seen, there are now far more patent applications regarding batteries filed when compared with the volumes of 2000-2010. Meanwhile, we found that Li-Ion batteries technologies are very much prominent in particular in Mainland China, now seeming to set the agenda concerning patent filing but with a lot of national filings only.
Far less numerous filings occur in Redox Flow and SSB Technologies but attention need to be paid in the next future on these ones.
The presented work is far from being comprehensive and analyzing patent portfolios is difficult and complex. The intricacies of the IP field can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, requiring real know-how and cooperation between IP and scientific experts. However, we believe this form of patent research, deriving insight from ‘big data’ sources, is a highly valuable methodology for companies working in specific technological fields to establish their own IP strategy.