Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Patent landscapes provide a snapshot of the current situation of patents in a specific technology, whether within a country, region or worldwide. Rather than searching the existing prior art for a specific solution in development, patent landscaping outlines the existing technical field. This can highlight those technical areas which are the focus of major development, and the quieter ‘white space’ which may inform future R&D strategies.
Patent landscaping is generally performed on behalf of businesses that are seeking to develop new products in a particular area. The information gained from a patent landscape is used to help companies develop their business plans and research and development strategies. A patent landscape can help companies minimize research risks by focusing on areas that do not already contain a lot of patents and can help companies identify areas for future growth where there are few patents pending.
Patent Landscapes may be used by companies for reviewing their own portfolio or for competitive intelligence. The information contained in a Patent Landscape Report and the possible business benefits from this information has been explained below.
POSSIBLE BUSINESS BENEFITS
‘White spaces’ - and the patents that may be already be in them
- Identification of new technology opportunities
- Identification of patents within these white spaces that can be acquired as part of a push into these white space
Position of your organization relative to your competitors
- Support for company valuations
- Can help predict risks and returns from patent litigation
- Identification of areas of technology where your company is strong or weak in order to support future business decisions.
- Data to support decisions to buy or sell business assets
- Data to support patent strategy decisions
- Verification and bench marking of corporate strategy
Highly and lowly rated patents in your portfolio
- Opportunities to reduce your patent renewal costs by focusing these costs on your highest rated patents
Leading patents in an area of technology
- Identification what can be the dominant patents in an area of technology, which may create the largest freedom to operate risks
- Identification of patents or patent owners to acquire or sell
- Identification of what could be the broadest prior art in an area you are trying to invalidate a patent in.
Technology clusters of patent filing activity in an area of technology
- Identification of new opportunities for your own business
- Being able to position corporate business and patent strategy to respond to these clusters
- Recruitment Targets as well as own leading inventors may be recognised, rewarded, motivated and retained.
Freedom to Operate Search
Freedom to operate (FTO), means that for a given product or service, at a given point in time, with respect to a given market or geography, no intellectual property (IP) from any third party is infringed.
Whenever a company is planning to develop and launch a new product, a major risk, particularly in technology sectors where there is extensive patenting, is that commercialization may be blocked by a competitor who holds a patent for a technology incorporated within that product. This is why many companies, at an early stage, seek to secure their “freedom to operate,” i.e. to ensure that the commercial production, marketing and use of their new product, process or service does not infringe the IP rights of others. While a patent right accords exclusive rights to the patent holder to prevent the use, sale and making of the patented product or process, there are few riders attached to this protection. These riders, which are enlisted below, are used in implementing a FTO search.
· Patent protection is territorial- While a certain technology may be protected in a company’s main markets, it may be in the public domain in other countries. In the latter, no permission (or license) is needed from the patent owner in order to commercialize the product.
· Patents have a limited duration- Patent protection lasts for a maximum period of 20 years. Thereafter, a patent is considered to be in the public domain and may be freely used by anyone. Moreover, fewer than 25 percent of all patents granted are maintained for the maximum 20 year term. Many patents are allowed to lapse through non-payment of maintenance fees by the patent holders before the 20 years are up.
· Patents have limits of scope- The claims section in a patent document determines the scope of the patent. Any aspect of an invention not covered by the claims is not considered to be protected. That said, it is not always easy to determine the scope of a patent. It requires considerable experience in interpreting the claims, the written specification and the history of the application process.
A Freedom to Operate (FTO) analysis invariably begins by searching patent literature for issued or pending patents, and obtaining a legal opinion as to whether a product, process or service may be considered to infringe any patent(s) owned by others. The main benefits arising out of an FTO search are as follows:
Ø If the patent search reveals that one or more patents do limit a company’s freedom to operate, the company may: Purchase the patent or license in or in the alternative redesign the product in such a way that it does not infringe upon others patent rights.
Ø If the patent search indicates that there are no patents blocking access to market and that a new technology is likely to meet the penetrability criteria, a business owner may wish to seek patent protection for the new technology to ensure a greater degree of freedom to operate, instead of keeping it as a trade secret.