How patent analytics help startups develop robust business intelligence

In business, having extensive and up-to-date knowledge about an industry is a key for success in whatever phase of development. For business in ideation stage, for instance, knowing current and emerging trends could help them develop product or service differentiation strategies. For dominant players, business intelligence is imperative to stay relevant, especially in a world where tech disruptions battering legacy companies out of competition is the new constant.

In the case of startups, which are tech-oriented businesses, patent analytics can suit their needs to have a full grasp of technological trends around them.

A patent document contains complete technical details that allow a person skilled in the art to carry out the invention claimed in the document. This exhaustive disclosure is a requirement under the patent law in exchange for a patent grant.

“Patent databases are free, open, legal and facts-based… With IP (intellectual property) intelligence, you get to know the entire landscape,” said Jason Loh, founder of Piece Future, which is an IP investment bank with strategic investments in more than 30 startups across Asia.

In a webinar co-organized by IPOPHL for startups last month, the benefits of using patent analytics cuts across four fundamental strategies that must be supported by sufficient and accurate information for businesses to build a sound and strategic action plan:

Knowing your market

  • Loh revealed that a lot of times when startups are asked about their competitive advantage, they struggle in responding with clarity.  “It’s important to identify this competence very early,” Loh said. He continued: “As a first step, startups must list down what they have and identify which features of the company, either in itself or through further developments, can contribute to building this advantage.” Once these are laid out, startups can proceed to assessing which markets its products can best serve. “Patent analytics can help you map out these white spaces,” Loh said. White spaces refer to gaps in a customer’s needs in terms of the features of existing products or services in the market.
  • Patent analytics can also identify which country-markets a product or service will thrive in, according to Loh. “Maybe your technology is so good you may succeed in selling in China, US, Europe, and you may want to think about that early on,” the startup investor added.

Knowing competitors

  • Loh shared that patent intelligence also enables startups to understand competitors, which is a crucial strategy for startups to catch up and remain relevant in a world of fast evolving competitive abilities. “Patent research and analytics are the only legitimate way for you to find out [your competitors’] R&D direction without sending spies in,” Loh quipped. By combing through patent databases, startups can also monitor competitors’ existing portfolio of technology. From scrutinizing the patent documents, one can also find the papers and reports cited, giving a hint of which areas of technology a competitor is exploring. “Your competitors will never share or announce this information publicly. So patent intelligence is the best way to know what your competitors are up to,” Loh added.

Finding partners

  • Finding partners within the innovation ecosystem can also be identified in patent analytics, a benefit Loh shared is often overlooked. Partnerships, Loh said, can support in-license deals where startups tap technologies that can contribute to the accomplishment of certain outcomes but do not make part of a company’s capabilities. “You should not be recreating the wheel,” Loh reminded startup attendees.

Meanwhile, if startups have valuable IP assets, they can also license these out to generate additional income on top of their direct market sales. Aside from supporting in-license and out-license technology deals, patent databases can also point out to viable entities with whom companies can forge a merger and acquisition (M&A). An M&A can buoy a company’s resources and capabilities to gain a greater share in the market.

Anticipating future trends

  • Future-proof has been a buzzword in the coronavirus pandemic and it has been proven that those who are quick to adapt stand strong. Patent documents can help businesses in this aspect by keeping them abreast of the latest trends as their publications mark the earliest point in time in which such information is made available to the public. This, given that patent documents are generally published before the market launch of a concerned invention.
  • Moreover, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, it is estimated that some 70% of the information disclosed in patent documents have never been published anywhere else, giving anyone an exclusive look into future innovations.

IPOPHL’s patent search services

Loh emphasized that patent analytics, as with any research pursuit, is not easy and will take time especially for under-resourced enterprises.

“As startups, you might not have enough time or resources but you must do at least basic analytics to have a clear understanding of what’s out there and where you want to be,” he added.

He noted that patent information can be derived from a wide range of free sources available online, such as market data from established technology and financial news wires and institutions that offer patent analytics services.

National IP offices like IPOPHL also provide a free‐of‐charge patent information databases, which are open to the public.

While the free services satisfy needs in simple searches, they may not be suitable for more complex, in-depth and legally motivated search purposes.

Startups, hence, may find IPOPHL’s Commercial Patent Search and Patent Analytics services useful in looking into trends and current gaps in an industry’s technological landscape.

To date, IPOPHL’s Documentation, Information and Technology Transfer Bureau has developed a total of 40 patent landscape reports or comprehensive studies on various innovation activities mostly in the fields of agriculture and electronics.

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