A patent license is an agreement between you as the IP right owner and another party. It grants them permission to do something that would be an infringement of the rights without the license.
Patent licensing may come about in different forms, and patent licenses can be classified as exclusive or non-exclusive. Under an exclusive license, a patent owner transfers all indicia of ownership to the licensee only retaining the title to the patent. From the point of view of the patent owner, he surrenders all rights under the patent (including the right to sue for infringement and the right to license) to the licensee. By granting a non-exclusive license, the patent owner essentially promises not to sue the licensee for patent infringement.
Patent data, including the legal status, litigation data, etc. can be used creatively for business intelligence purposes. Some of the examples for the same are given below:
- IP Portfolio Valuation: If it is found that a company has been aggressively enforcing a particular patent or a group of patents, then it may be concluded that the company is sure of its value, and thus this could be a possible parameter to estimate for patent valuation. Such information can then be used for determining the value of an IP portfolio in entirety by looking for such information for each patent of that group.
- Patent Valuation using Legal Representation Data: Sometimes simply looking at legal representation data found on the cover sheet of a patent or published application, provides some idea about the patent value. For example, if high-paid attorneys or large firms or in-house corporate counsel are legal representative of a patent, which are generally expensive over solo practitioners, this means that the patent may be worth of high investment; although this correlation may not always be true.
- Identification of Competitors: By framing a proper search query, the results of any subject search can be ranked by assignee and such information can be used to understand the number and quality of patent possessed by competing companies. Further, this information can be used to identify previously unknown competitors and further to understand their product line-ups and their possible future products by analyzing the recently granted patents or patent publications pending with the patent office.
- Identify Competitor’s R&D efforts: By mapping the number of patent applications filled by a competitor, including the frequency, i.e. number of application filed in a particular period, one can guess the focus of the research and development efforts of the competitor in question. Such information can then be used by the companies to align its own R&D efforts to counter the advances of the competitors and further to look for licensing and similar opportunities.
- Assessment of active researchers in a particular field: Inventors / Assignee information from the patents can also be used to identify active researchers in a particular area of science and technology. Typically, by using patent search engines, the inventor(s) with most number of patents granted or recently filed can be filtered out with using some sort of classification system for narrowing the technology domain and further ranking the results in terms of patents filed by inventors. Such dataset can also be used to find out collaboration between educational institutes and corporate businesses.
- Assessment of Patent Quality: By looking at the bibliographic information of a patent document, much details can be analyzed which could help determine an inherent value of that patent. For example, if the patent is owned by a single inventor, it may be concluded with reasonable probability that the invention is not a result of well-funded program of say a corporate company, or a university/research institute but likely result of an individual efforts, which are generally improvements over existing products/technologies. Further, if it is found that the application has been filed in multiple jurisdictions, say by PCT route, it may be concluded that the inventor/assignee sees a value in the patent document to expend the required funds needed for multiple jurisdictions filings.
- Assessment of Research Quality: Further by looking at the bibliographic information of a patent document, indirectly it could be determined the quality of the research or the research effort that has gone into developing the invention/technology of that particular patent document. For example, if the patent lists multiple inventors that it may be concluded that the research has been an effort of a group of people, and thus it is likely that the research team wad well-funded. Further, if a lot of prior-art documents has been cited in the patent document, then it may be concluded that the research team was diligent which reflect quality research, for example, it has been seen that patents filed by universities’ research teams typically include lot of quality citations.
- Identification of Market Trends: It is relatively easy to find patents filed in a particular technology domain using any advanced patent search engine. By filtering patent data for a limited time period, say last five (5) years or so, such dataset can be used to discover market trends or technology domains which are seeing the most number of filings in a particular jurisdiction. Such information can then be used to align the research strategies for the identified markets.
- Discover human capital: As discussed earlier, using classification codes to prepare a dataset and then filtering the results to rank the inventors with most number of filed patents, it can be identified the active researchers in a technology domain. This information can be used to discover human talents which could be engaged in permanent or temporary basis to spear-head a company’s research activity in an area, and further to obtain contract research or the similar activities.
- Identify ongoing research: A patent document with continuation applications, such as continuous-in-part, may indicate that the research to further develop that technology is on-going. This may be indicative of the value of the patent document, as it could be deduced that the researchers are putting efforts to continue the research in that domain. Such information could further be used to analyze which features of a product or which products in the market in their entirety are being upgraded.
- Global Interests of a Competitor: It is relatively easy to find out which patents are being filed in multiple jurisdictions. This could be achieved in many ways, but the simplest method could be by just looking at the INPADOC family data of the particular patent. By using such data, it may be determined that if a competitor has been developing its IP portfolio and thus could be looking into expanding into such markets. This business intelligence information could be used to develop strategies to counter such advances of the competitor.
- Anticipate Product Launches: These days this may be one of the biggest uses of business intelligence data gathered by analyzing the patent portfolio of a company. Many technology bloggers and journalists uses latest published patent filings of top companies to predict their next product launches, as well as to guess the new set of features that may be available in their next iteration of a popular product. Such articles or videos discussing new features of an upcoming product can be seen a lot, and many a time the source of such information is the analysis of the company’s patent filings. The trend is most seen in smartphone launches. When the public is eagerly waiting for next iPhone launch, these bloggers may be busy dissecting the recent patent publications of Apple, Inc. to guess which new features will make into the next model of the iPhone, iPad, Macs or any of the Apple’s next products.