22 December 2017

What is the Patent Landscape, Whom and What is it for?

The patent landscape is an informational and analytical study of the patent documentation, which shows in general terms the patent situation in a certain technological direction or with respect to the patent activity of the subjects of an innovation area taking into account the temporal dynamics and territorial characteristic of: a country, region or worldwide.

For the better understanding what the patent landscape is for, let us consider a real-world example. The entrepreneur in the midst of the development of his business in massaging devices manufacture has filed applications for a discovery in the Russian Federation and Europe. But he did not take into account at all that he intended to sell his products in other countries as well. His massaging device became very popular in the USA. Due to the massive demand, the businessman’s competitors with the similar offers started to appear on the market rapidly. Thus, due to lack of the entrepreneur's patent in the USA, the competitors quickly ousted him and captured a huge part of the market.

What mistake has the entrepreneur made?

Firstly, if it is difficult for the applicant to decide in which countries to obtain a patent for an invention, then he should not file an application to one or two countries. If the applicant is a citizen of the Russian Federation, at first he should file an application for a discovery or a utility model in the Russian Federation, and then he should file an international application under the PCT, that will provide an opportunity to transfer it to any countries chosen from 152 countries, that have concluded the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which not only helps the applicants to obtain patents for their technical solutions in many countries, but also encourages the patent offices to make decisions on the grant of a patent, and facilitates the access of the public to the technical information related to the inventions. Filing one international patent application under the PCT, the applicant obtains not 12 months of a convention priority, but 30-31 months (depending on the country) to make a decision on the countries of interest to him for further patenting.

Secondly, in order to make the right decision, it is necessary to study and describe the patent situation for a specific technology in a certain country, a certain region or worldwide, that is, to execute a “patent landscape.”

The patent landscape starts with the search for the patent information about the state of art in relation to the technology of interest to the researcher, based on suitable patent databases. At the next stage, the results of the study shall be analyzed to resolve some specific issues, for example, to identify the information about “Who and what is doing? What and where is being registered?” or in the field of development (innovative trends, a range of solutions for some technical problem, a joint authorship). The necessary component of any report about the patent landscape is a visualization of its results, contributing to their understanding, as well as certain conclusions or recommendations based on the material obtained during the search for the patent information and its analysis.

Thus, the creation of a patent landscape and a patent research will allow the entrepreneurs to orient themselves correctly in their development and innovative technical solutions. That is, to understand where the market's greatest activity is, where its monopolization, and where there are no patents at all, what will help them to make the right choice in future.

The visualization of the patent landscape provides a visual solution to such issues as:

1. What companies own the patents in the sphere of the company's interests?

2. Which of them has the greatest number of patents?

3. Are the defined companies active? In what direction is this activity developing?

4. Are there any cooperative relations between the defined companies?

5. What technological areas are not covered by the competitors?

6. What adjustments should be made to one’s own business development strategy?

7. Do new players appear on the market and what is their market potential?

The information obtained with the help of the patent landscape can be used in making strategic solutions:

1. What new markets is it advisable for the company to enter, and what new markets is it better to avoid?

2. Where is it advisable to invest the limited resources on the works directed on obtaining the new knowledge and the practical application at the creation of a new article or technology to?

3. What companies can contribute to the protection and improvement of the patent portfolio of the company and the business as a whole?

4. Which companies from the point of view of improving the patent portfolio are not advisable to purchase?

5. What researchers or research groups may be of interest for the cooperation?

Considering the above, the patent landscape is a necessary tool for minimizing risks and identifying favorable opportunities for further business development. It allows avoiding the litigation, to prevent the invasion of competitors into the company's sales markets and to activate the use of one’s own intangible assets, to prevent the costs for the scientific research in an unpromising competitive environment; to seek the partners capable of strengthening this company’s positions in the field of use of the intellectual property.

The patent landscape can be executed both on your one’s own and with the involvement of the relevant qualified patent companies. However, it is rather difficult to do this on one’s own, because it is impossible to automate the patent landscape completely, although at present there is a lot of software development in this area, for example, “Thomson Innovation”. The patent landscape requires urgently the participation of an expert, since at the stage of the data selection there are always difficulties with the languages ​​of the patents, the used terminology, in addition, the information systems do not allow making the patent search in all known databases.

Drawing up reports on the patent landscapes in specialized areas in the innovation process becomes an integral part of the entire life cycle of the innovation. With this approach, the intellectual property is considered to be not only as a means of protecting against competitive claims, but also as a source of new knowledge for working out the marketing strategies for the developing business.

Patent Attorney / Chemical Specialist