The R&D environment is becoming more and more crowded for technology firms. Markets are becoming increasingly more complex and international. The amount of technical and economic information increases exponentially, and appears with greater frequency in foreign languages.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of everything and to have to hand the suitable basic information necessary to prepare important business decisions. To cope with this, companies and organizations are making a more frequent use of the so-called patent landscapes, in order to obtain the relevant knowledge in a rapid and efficient manner.
Patent landscapes provide a snapshot of the current situation of patents in a specific technology, whether within a country, region or worldwide.
Their preparation always starts with a ‘state-of-the–art’ search for the relevant technology in specialized databases.
The results of this search are then analyzed in order to answer specific questions about, for example, patterns of activity: Who is doing what? Where are they doing it? Or innovation patterns: trends and lines of innovation, alternative solutions for a technical problem, collaborations.
Patent data does not only provide information about the technologies and their applicants, but also about aspects that are important for the organization as a whole, such as markets of interest, companies and sectors.
Thanks to these patent landscapes, innovative companies and institutions can obtain a clear image of the current situation, their competitors and the chronological development of the area of technology.
But, who can use patent landscapes and, to what end?
Generally speaking, patents are an extremely flexible information tool.
They can provide information for the design of public and private R&D policies, establish the bases for strategic research planning or accelerate the transfer of technology.
A patent landscape can answer different types of questions for various user groups:
R&D personnel: information regarding patents is particularly helpful for this user group in their daily activities. It makes it possible to optimize R&D costs, not only by avoiding redundant research, but also by providing alternative technical solutions to a problem. It also helps to speed up R&D processes by facilitating a quick familiarization with the new technical areas and a rapid identification of development gaps and unique technical characteristics.
Directives: the basic strategic planning of decision makers requires a clear perspective, based on complete and concisely summarized results. The information provided by patents may be crucial, since it provides an overall view of technological advances, market trends and competitors. It also permits a rapid identification of technical or commercial partners, as well as that of potential technology providers or licensees.
Legal assessors and representatives: for this user group the reliability and integrity of the data is crucial, especially as regards the legal status of the licenses. The information regarding the legitimacy and validity of the rights is essential, both for the detection of possible violations of own or third party Intellectual Property rights, as well as for the design of efficient solutions and defense strategies. These are, in short, the basis of an analysis of Freedom-to-Operate.
Financial and fiscal assessors and representatives: patents are an increasingly more important asset for organizations given that, in many cases, they are the source of competitive advantages and the generation of new income. A patent landscape may form the base for the evaluation of patents within the context of the control of organizational resources, accounting, the obtaining of resources by pledging them and the definition of a fiscal strategy that includes Intellectual Property assets.
The largest international industrial companies already systematically use Patent Landscapes due to their great versatility and utility.
This work tool is, however, still underused in many markets and sectors, given that it requires cutting-edge databases and software as well as personnel qualified to carry out this type of analysis and interpret the results. But its use is essential to create a productive fabric in an increasingly more competitive atmosphere.