By Thom Kobayashi ‑ February 21, 2020
IP Intelligence: The Arc of Information.
As markets and technologies become increasingly interconnected, today’s business leaders and innovators face more complex decisions than ever—and, subsequently, a growing need for “perfect information.” While decision makers have long used patent data to inform their strategies, modern tools have rendered this information much easier to gather and analyze. Yet, despite the continued hunger for better data, how much have these tools really evolved? Moreover, what will it take to bring patent analysis tools to the next level?
In the Beginning: Patent Search is all there was—and we were fine with that.
Back when I started (i.e., when dinosaurs ruled the internet), it took special skills, knowledge, and tenacity to search a number of international databases and piece together the necessary, relevant patent information. Then, just to render that data useable, it had to be cleaned and correlated.
Only after correcting for spelling, punctuation, and transliterations (and then rolling up the business relationships) could you even begin making sense of what you were seeing. Where the competitors were patenting was a clue to where they intended to build a presence and potentially the reach of their technology. Then, finally, you could form a strategy and begin deploying people and money against your plan.
Patent Analytics: A Small Step Forward.
The next major evolution came when companies realized that putting all their data in one place saved a lot of people a lot of time. From there, data (such as class codes) were standardized with alias tables, so even without an actual IPC code assigned, the existing CPC or US class codes have been used to estimate one. Once the data was cleaned, analysts could use it to index in a seamless way.
Today, citations, company norms, and class codes can be routinely used in this way, off-loading much of the norming work that was inherent to the analyst job and that often took more time than the analysis itself. With these advances, patent search tools evolved into patent analysis tools that allowed data lists to be quickly turned into graphical output.
IP Intelligence: Now We’re Getting Somewhere.
The next evolution was IP Intelligence. Other public data (such as company ownership or subsidiary relationships) was eventually added to help drive commercial decisions, since patents are otherwise largely legal documents. Once again, data from public sources is correlated so that control (rather than ownership) can be displayed and more commercial insights can be drawn.
The driver behind all of this was always (among other things) to help business leaders better understand competitors, inform R&D strategies, and assess the value of partnerships or acquisitions. Today, IP professionals are relying on IP intelligence software to provide business insights in an understandable way. However, because of the data’s public nature, current IP intelligence tools often come up short in terms of providing comprehensive information for these decisions. The truth is that you need more than just public data to inform how to run your company.
Making the Leap from IP Intelligence to Business Intelligence.
Take the information that you have from your tool, and ask yourself the following:
To evolve from IP intelligence to actual business intelligence, a tool must include all relevant business data: financial information, licensing agreements, development partnership contract details, opinions from subject matter or technical experts, unpublished IP (such as idea submissions), white papers, and application drafts. This is all information that a company already has, but needs to bring together with patent data to drive an actual business decision.
Consider your company’s portfolio. What would it take to build a model that allows you to understand the specific patents (and the exact cost to maintain them) that supported each of your company’s business lines? That is an actual cost, on a document-by-document basis, that could be totaled and sorted by business unit to allow business leaders to quickly see how much each division spends on patents.
Next up: In part 2 of this blog series, we’ll shift from the evolution of patent analysis to business intelligence and focus on how tapping into the wealth of information your company already has can better support your decision-making.