The meaning of “patent landscape” is difficult to pin down. How is a patent landscape different from a patent search? What deliverable components does a customer receive when they order a patent landscape? And how can a business strategically use a patent landscape study to increase profits and outmaneuver competitors?
Joelle Mornini: First, can you give us a basic definition of the term “patent landscape”?
Matthew Luby: A patent landscape is a survey of patent and non-patent literature that seeks to answer one or more business objectives. The parameters of the patent landscape are really defined by the individual objectives of the project.
JM: Can you give us some examples of patent landscapes, based on different customer goals?
ML: A quick survey of a technology area, where statistical markers like key players in the field who may become a threat are identified is one example. The ranges of detail and objectives may broaden to complex, multi-month patent landscape studies involving analysis at a granular, patent-by-patent level in order to discern technology trends and prepare a list of specific recommendations based on the identified trends.
JM: What are the actual deliverables in a patent landscape study and what information is included in these deliverables?
ML: The deliverables vary based on the objectives and goals the project seeks to address. Generally, a patent landscape includes a database of relevant information, including data from both patent and non-patent literature sources. The database usually includes objective pieces of information, like the patent numbers, and subjective information like technology tags.
The patent landscape study also includes a report that can vary in length and content, but an average report will likely include an executive summary of results and recommendations, a description of the search strings used to locate the data, and visualizations of statistical trends in charts and graphs.
JM: How can a business strategically use the information from this patent landscape data and report?
ML: Businesses can use patent landscape studies for competitive intelligence gathering: where you find out more about your competitors than they know about you. By analyzing the patent holdings of other businesses, you can identify their strategies and future products.
Patent landscape studies also help businesses to identify new junctions for research and development (R&D). If you draw a grid of different technologies, where would the gaps be? Which technologies haven’t intersected yet? A patent landscape study can help you identify the “white space” in a technology field.
JM: Can you give us some background on how patent landscape studies became popular analytical tools?
ML: There is a growing appreciation for patent analysis, but patent landscapes aren’t widely accepted yet. It’s hard to define the worth of intellectual assets, and it’s not easy to understand from an R&D perspective what to do with the information from a patent landscape. Companies who use patent landscapes are early adopters of this tool, especially if they use the information to formulate business strategy.
JM: Some readers may wonder how a patent landscape study is different from a patent search. Can you explain the differences between them?
ML: During a patent’s life cycle, a patent search is most useful during the patent prosecution phase and the protection, enforcement, and patent litigation phases to help determine patentability, infringement, freedom-to-operate, and other business objectives that are by and large legal in nature. Patent landscapes are used for a much wider variety of business purposes, for example, for research and development purposes or portfolio management needs. Another distinction that is often, but not always the case, is that patent landscapes will look at additional types of relevant information beyond technology literature in patents and non-patent collections. These may include various forms of business data or litigation.
JM: It sounds like a lot of research, analysis, and communication with the customer is needed to prepare a patent landscape. Can you describe who usually prepares a patent landscape study?
ML: A patent analyst or strategist that is aware of best practices in IP searching and analysis of IP information and whom also is familiar with the technological discipline of the landscape study are the people who normally prepare landscape studies. They need a creative and open mind and should be comfortable interfacing with business strategists.
JM: Matt, thank you so much for helping us begin to understand this complicated field.
ML: I hope I’ve helped you peel back a few layers of the onion!
How would you define a patent landscape? Let us know in the comments!
This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.