What is Patent Landscape?

Decision-making in any field begins with an understanding of the landscape of that field. The same holds true for patents.

Have you ever wondered how a university could sanction a grant for a research proposal if it had no idea what it was getting into?

In fact, most of us have performed landscape analysis or study while deciding which career is best for us.

The “patent landscape” is a study of complex patent data that aims to provide key insights in a concise and understandable manner required for decision-making in a specific field. These insights cover trends, leading innovators and players, whitespaces, competition, potential R&D areas, market fit for patents, etc.

At this point, you may be having many questions. We are going to answer them one by one.

So, read on.

What is Patent Landscape?

As a decision maker in the field of patents, you’d have to take a look at the landscape in the field of patents, i.e., what’s been happening in patents.

Therefore, you need a single platform that can enable you to have an overview of the field. There is no specific definition of the patent landscape.

A patent landscape is generally used to answer practical and policy-related questions.

A patent landscape study report is created as a single platform overview by extracting useful information from a large set of patents relevant to a specific field in order to present complex information in a clear and accessible way.

It is well-known fact that past and future technologies are mainly hidden in patents. By design of the patenting system, it is also true that millions of published patent documents are available for the public to refer to.

According to this report, 80% of the information found in patents that is technical & critical in nature is not found anywhere else. This is mindboggling to know how much common researchers are missing on.

Jacob Schlumberger in 1966 wrote about leveraging information in patents as,

“We have the choice of using patent statistics cautiously and learning what we can from them, or not using them and learning nothing about what they alone can teach us.”

~Jacob Schlumberger

There is plenty of knowledge and useful information hidden in those patents which can be really helpful for you and your organization.

The patent landscape study report consists of mapping patent sets into an organized format so as to easily extract useful information.

This useful legal, technical, and business information helps large corporations, startups, universities, individual researchers, research institutions, investors, government-funded organizations, and similar entities to take informed decisions before committing resources such as time, money, and energy to a new technical domain, product, and services.

So, what decisions are made easier with the help of a study of patent landscape study?

We have listed many such decisions that you can make with the help of a study of patent landscape. These are:

  • develop best strategies and practices,
  • enter into a new technological domain,
  • decide the course of future R & D efforts and guide teams,
  • allocate resources according to viability,
  • avoid and design around competition,  
  • manage costs,
  • mergers/ acquisitions (M&A),
  • in/ out-licensing, technology transfer-related decisions,
  • avoid waste of resources on duplication of technology,
  • gain insights about the potential market that is fit for a patent, and
  • launch its services and products in a new sector.
State-of-the-art study, competitive technical intelligence report, white space analysis, and technical gap analysis are other names for patent landscape study.

So far we have learned that patent landscape analysis helps us with crucial insights needed to make decisions. You may be wondering what are those insights anyway? We have listed many as followings:

1. Trends: You can find out about what are the patent filing or patent publication trends over time. Similarly, you can find out about Patent filing trends technology-wise & country-wise.

This helps in learning about what is the evolution of a technology, where it is headed, and which country is focusing more on that technology.

Moreover, you can gain an insight into the geographical distribution of the patents in a technical domain and by a player. If you as an organization are affected by the technology in question, such insights are very crucial to have.  

2. Who’s important and doing what: The patent landscape provides you insights about leading innovators and players in a particular field. In addition, you can find about the technology-wise trends those top players are prioritizing.

Knowing about top inventors in a particular sector can help you hire them, follow their work, contact them to license their work, consult them, etc.   

Knowing about key players helps you consider merger & acquisition, in/ out license deals with them. This allows you to find out about your competitors, suppliers, and potential buyers.   

3. Categories: Any technology has multiple aspects of it. Looking at the technology through its categories rather than as a whole serves its own advantages.

Patent landscape study presents category-wise information which can help understand the technology better including any technical gaps.

For example, rather than studying the landscape of renewable energy, studying the landscape of a specific sector, such as wind energy, has its own benefits.

4. White spaces or technical gaps: The study of patent landscape helps identify technical gaps where patent filings are minimum or zero.

Leveraging such gaps, you can gain, a monopoly by securing patent rights in that area and as a result, grow your business.

Knowing, which patents are expiring, or have not been maintained, also helps you as an organization to identify how dense a technology area is so as to form an informed strategy.

Moreover, analyzing competitors’ products and patents protecting them gives insights into whether you can enter into the competition, negotiate a license, or design around weak patents providing weak protection to competitors’ products.

5. Competitor’s focus area: You can unearth details about your competitors, their patent filings, and the technical domain of those filed patents.

This way, the patent landscape is helpful in warning about the R&D focus areas of competitors leading to potential production & services in the future.

Knowing all this, you can avoid, better prepare or design around the competition. Further advanced knowledge of competitive pressure points helps you steer your research efforts efficiently and productively.

6. Research area of a university: If you have an interest in a particular technical domain, then finding out which university is invested in that area can be of great help.

Patent landscape analysis can also assist you to find the research area of a particular university.

7. Commercialization: To know whether a patent technology is moving towards commercialization is of utmost importance.

The worth of a patent or patent portfolio is assessed on its potential to commercialize.

It may so happen that you end up securing multiple patents and investing resources in a technology that is not even commercially viable. Moreover, if some technology is moving towards commercialization then you may plan to invest in it.

You might also discover new ways to monetize your existing patent portfolio and learn how long it takes for a particular invention to reach the market. Patent landscape study enables you to take commercialization into consideration while making decisions.

8. Where you stand: To know your place in the landscape is very important. How’d you move forward if you don’t even know where you stand among your competitors in the market?

A patent landscape study is a great way to know about your present standing compared to others.

9. Build great teams: Any organization is as good as its people. If you as an organization want to excel in a technical domain then you need to identify top technical, legal, and business people through landscape study and hire them, use their expertise and build an awesome team that can deliver.

Types of Patent Landscapes

The way you retrieve initial batch of patents in a patent search, you can categorize the patent landscape into two types as

1. Domain Focused 2. Player Focused

1. Domain Focused

If the initial batch of patents is retrieved through a patent search that is focused on a technical domain, then the patent landscape is referred to as a “domain-focused patent landscape.”

Mainly, these studies are used by R&D and product development teams.

Such landscape reports also help you gain insights about a particular domain using patent clusters and patent literature in them.

When it comes to a state-of-the-art study, it is about uncovering recent technologies developed over the past few years through a domain-focused patent landscape. We then examine the patent literature and clusters that have been retrieved for relevant insights.

Knowing state-of-art can be a boon in disguise as you have the opportunity to learn and then improve prior work in a technical domain.

Not only, state-of-art study but white space analysis is also often conducted based on domain-focused patent landscape.

During white space analysis, areas with a low or zero number of patent filings are identified. These areas also include where patents have expired or have not been maintained by paying maintenance fees. These areas are called “white spaces” or “technical gaps.” If there is commercial viability, these white spaces are explored for further R&D.

2. Player Focused

If the initial batch of patents is retrieved through a patent search that is focused on one or more players, then the patent landscape is referred to as a player-focused patent landscape.

Companies, universities, startups, research institutes, government-funded organizations, etc., that file patents are considered players for the purpose of this landscape.

The player-focused patent landscape study, in essence, focuses on the players’ patent filings, profiles them based on their patent activity, and monitors their business and research interests by examining their patent portfolio. 

Unlike state-of-the-art study and whitespace analysis, which are performed based on a domain-focused landscape, competitive technical intelligence (CTI) is performed based on a player-focused patent landscape.

In competitive technical intelligence, we, as an interested party, keep track of the patenting activities of one or more competitors through the player-based landscape intelligence.

By doing so, we can create well-informed strategies, focus our time, money, and energy on the potential targets, and dominate the market.

In addition to competitive technical intelligence, a player-based patent landscape is also used for mergers and acquisitions (M&A). In an M&A project, the patent portfolio of a company is valued. More specifically, intangible assets created by the patent portfolio of the company and their value to the products and services of the company are assessed in an M&A project. 

Patent landscape study is a step-by-step process and can be conducted by you using free tools. We have written an article explaining how to perform patent landscape study and analysis using free tools.

What is a Patent Landscape Report (PLR)?

According to WIPO, Patent Landscape Reports(PLRs) provide a snapshot of the patent situation of a specific technology, either within a given country or region, or globally. They can inform policy discussions, strategic research planning or technology transfer. They may also be used to analyze the validity of patents based on data about their legal status.” 

These PLRs are designed to take high-stake decisions with a degree of confidence in various technology sectors.   

Moreover, PLRs are designed to provide efficient access to a large collection of technologically focused data and to answer key questions about what technologies are covered, which organizations own the patents, and in which countries they are held.

This way, policymakers, and government institutions can make well-informed decisions.

To prepare a PLR, first, a state-of-the-art search is conducted. The search results are then looked for patterns of patenting activity or innovation. To help understand and conclude, visual representations of the data are used in these reports.

You can find step-by-step instructions to prepare PLRs here. This guide answers questions pertaining to the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the patent landscape reports. If you want to access these reports for your purpose of learning patent landscaping or taking policy decisions, you can do here.

Before you go from this page, you may want to read many awesome articles like this here.

Sonam Singh

My struggle, in the beginning, made me realize the need to create an ultimate resource that can provide answers to both very basic questions like what, why, when, who, how, where, and the most complex topics about intellectual property. Moreover, my passion for writing and my love for patents made it easier for me to create this super-helpful platform for students, professionals, and curious minds wanting to know about IP. Cheers to that.

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