If you want to be the first-to-market, you need to know more about your competitors. From well-crafted patent landscapes, you can gain key insights into your competitors’ assets, IP strategies, and partners, as well as any whitespace and litigious technology. In this article, we’ll show you how.
Data disruptors lurk in the shadows
We’d all like to think we know who our competitors are, but do we? In 2019, the world of innovation has taken us by surprise. Truepill, dubbed the “new AWS of healthcare,” and Nestlé and Smithfield joining Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in providing plant-based burgers to the masses are just a few examples of players disrupting various industries in unexpected ways. Disruptors can appear out of nowhere with such unexpected moves.
With 7.7 billion people sharing our planet, it has been suggested that certain ideas and inventions are developed by multiple people at the same time.
The key is not the ideas themselves (though they are important), but how you can put them into action before anyone else develops, monetizes, and disrupts the market before you! And doing so requires obtaining key competitor insights.
You can find out if an idea you’re considering has already been implemented, if any of the competitors are considering implementing a similar idea before you, or if they want to take a break from electronics and start growing vegetables!
And patent landscaping is one of the most important tools used by both R&D and IP teams to gain the competitive insights required to be first-to-market while avoiding unnecessary risk.
But it all depends on how you build patent landscapes and how well you understand the right signals to empower your strategic innovation decisions.
We’ll go over these key signals so that by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what your competitors are up to, what they may be planning, and how you can override all of that to take the lead before they do—all with just a few patent landscapes!
Make use of your own portfolio as a guide
It’s one thing to read a basic technology report from a third party, but it’s quite another to create a simple landscape to confirm which tech areas clearly intrude on your ideas.
The first step is to base your competitive intelligence on information you already have. Creating a patent landscape from your own portfolio can help you identify the tech areas in which you have proven expertise.
Let’s do it! For this example, we’ll pretend to be Apple. Based on patent filings this year, here are Apple’s top five technology areas in the US: G06F3/01, G06F3/0488, G06F1/16, G06F3/0484, G06F3/01.
Let’s conduct a broad search on these top performing IPC codes, but this time through the lens of screens. Then we’ll narrow them down to pending and active patents, pick the most relevant ones, and populate them into a landscape:
Looking at the top filing companies, we’ve come up with “our” (Apple’s) list of top competitors to keep an eye on for these five IPCs in the coming years: Google, Samsung, IBM, Sony, Microsoft, Tencent Holdings, Alibaba Group, and Seiko Epson.
Even if we only have one competitor to watch, we must ensure that they are capturing every corner of the tech space into which they have filed for some real competitor intel. This brings us to the next point…
Have a specific competitor in mind? Magnify the scope
Do you have a traditional competitor? Bringing all of their subsidiaries and acquired branches into a single patent landscape provides you with the best resource for assessing their patenting strengths.
Let’s look at another interesting example, Panasonic. They do everything from home construction to salad packs as a conglomerate!
Gather all of your competitor’s main branches and subsidiaries using XLSCOUT’s Corporate Tree feature, and then populate the landscape, paying special attention to pending patent applications and active patents:
Look at that variety of filing activities! We know that they excel in the following technological areas:
- A63F7/02: Using falling playing bodies or running playing bodies on an inclined surface, such as in pinball games [2006.01]
- A63F5/04: Disc roulettes; Dial roulettes; Teetotums; Dice-tops [2006.01]
- H04W72/04: Wireless resource allocation [2009.01]
Regardless, there is freedom to investigate the following IPC classes when analyzing the list of 44 patents that represent tech whitespaces:
These are the technologies that may represent a new market for you to enter or a new competitor who specializes in these technologies. A search on these IPC classes will provide you with additional information on new competitors to add to your watch list!
Understand their partners
No man is an island, and competitors are well aware of this. There are numerous opportunities for technology transfers and licensing in the world of innovation, providing a mutually beneficial way for you and other companies, universities, and research labs to collaborate on commercialized patents and build out your intellectual property (IP) and reputation.
You can use patent landscaping to gain an advantage over competitors by knowing who they work with. Having a go-to list of their partners for licensing or joint research and development will help you come up with future partnerships with them, or with other similar players, to gain control of some tricky tech areas in which you may require their expertise, development, or selling power.
Let’s stick with Panasonic for this one. Open a list of patents for which they were not the sole listed assignee on your competitor’s landscape (otherwise known as the patent owner).
As long as these companies aren’t subsidiaries of your competitors, they’ll be potential partners, and you can approach them with your selected projects. You’ll need to come up with the right pitch, but with the other indicators you’ll get from patent landscapes, you’ll have an easier time convincing them.
You’d need a landscape platform to quickly identify licensing opportunities, but getting this licensing list gives you access to their key licensees. You can approach them if you’re interested in similar arrangements, but chances are they’re already keeping an eye on your activities and will be ready to approach you the moment you file into similar technological areas!
Discover what they value the most
When you know which patents are worth the most in a competitor’s portfolio, you have the information you need to determine whether a technology area will provide you with lucrative returns if you license or sell the patent rights to another company.
On your landscape, include patents worth more than $1 million. This will give you a good idea of what the market considers valuable, allowing you to see which technologies are particularly important. What is valuable to the market means more patents that are successfully commercialized—and more profit for you.
Recognize their possibilities
Patents are extremely profitable. You can buy, sell, license, or share them. This gives you some distinct options for staying ahead of the competition. You should look for these telling points in the following areas of your landscape:
- Licensing: Use this to quickly determine which of your competitors’ patents have licensing agreements in place. This will give you a good idea of who is collaborating and which tech fields have seen a lot of collaboration between companies.
- Tech transfers: This information can be obtained simply by grouping all shared assignees who are not competitors and highlighting the universities or academic institutions associated with them. These patents would be examples of technology transfers, in which universities seek commercial partners to help them develop their ideas into marketable products or technology. This is big business now, and you should think about it as a viable way to get ahead in the future.
It would be beneficial to ensure that your team and all major stakeholders within the company encourage your decisions.
Create reports to involve the appropriate teams
You’ll need to report to the appropriate teams once you’ve gathered the necessary insights. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page so that you can implement your chosen strategy into action.
Share the entire landscape with your teams as it is, or use the patents from it to build a custom dashboard to gain even more insights into the dataset. As a result, the landscape serves as a foundation for your team to improve and make sound decisions.
Take control of the title!
To stay one step ahead of the competition, the aforementioned tips can assist you in creating more robust patent landscapes. Patent landscapes can assist you in better understanding your competitors and the current unknown disruptors. This can help predict what they will do in the future, including who they will work with, how they intend to prosper, and where they intend to attack your intellectual property assets.
How can XLSCOUT help?
XLSCOUT provides you with a competitive dashboard where you can compare the portfolios of different competitors and extract different insights like their filing trends, top problems they are trying to solve, their technology investments, their collaborations, their core patents, etc. With just a few clicks, it creates a patent landscape report tailored to your needs.