Would you climb Everest without an expert guide? You shouldn’t navigate the global IP landscape without one either.
The global intellectual property terrain is becoming increasingly complex. Across the world, the quantity of patent applications has almost doubled since 2000 (source: WIPO), and the largest single contributor, China, reported over 300,000 patents granted in the chemistry sector in 2015 alone, a 30% increase from the year before (source: STN®, database: CAplus?, accessed 2/15/2016). Consequently, having a patent search professional who can work with your team is more important than ever. Being able to efficiently and expertly research the IP considerations that impact key business decisions can you save time and money, while also providing you with invaluable topical and global insight.
The global IP landscape can be treacherous
The success or failure of business decisions can hinge on the accuracy of the IP information you depend on. Ensuring comprehensive coverage and reliability in a timely, concise manner can be difficult in the current climate, however. Patent quality is difficult to measure, as innovative significance, potential economic value and enforceability can all be used to describe a patent’s worth, and these metrics are often subjective. Furthermore, patent quality is inconsistent. While some patent offices have initiatives underway to address patent quality, such as the USPTO’s Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI), improvement efforts are not uniformly applied throughout the world.
A knowledgeable guide can save you time and money
The risk of overlooking important information is very real when IP searches are either too broad or too narrow in scope. Overly extensive searches require significant investments of time to process results, and these searches typically retrieve a large amount of irrelevant information. Overly narrow or improperly targeted searches might exclude critical art or misrepresent the current landscape, and can result in greenlighting inappropriate projects, vetoing valid investment opportunities or misallocating development resources. Potential litigation costs are a concern as well, with the AIPLA 2015 Report of the Economic Survey estimating costs starting at $100K and going much higher.
A precise answer set generated by an IP search professional leads to fewer documents to review and can offer presentation of results in a way that highlights relevant information.
A search involving “beauty balm” creams provides an example of how expert search skills can reduce the number and improve the reliability and relevance of documents to review. If a novice searcher uses freepatentsonline.com to find patents mentioning “zinc oxide” and “BB cream” in the past 20 years, 33,000 hits are found, and these results include everything from sunscreen components within BB creams, to microbial compounds used in personal cosmetics and pet care products, to xanthum gum mixtures used to stabilize drink blends.
Professional IP searchers have access to expertise and powerful tools that allows them to zero in on precise chemical formulations, patent date ranges, and specific patenting countries. In the example above, a professional searcher could precisely search for a cosmetic cream containing zinc oxide (zinc oxide: CAS Registry Number® 1314-13-2) and quickly hone in results such as an “optical variable blemish balm cream”, patented in China in 2014. Free tools often don’t provide comprehensive coverage of global patents, and in this particular example, the Chinese patent wouldn’t have been included in the result set.
Experience helps you bring the right equipment to the journey
IP search experts often have topical experience and access to knowledge bases of scientific and technological terms that are crucial for ensuring search results accurately address the scientific questions being asked. And because patent processes and terminology may vary somewhat from country to country, understanding a country’s patenting requirements and trends is critical when determining global enforcement and coverage. Figure 3 illustrates the spectrum of patent applications encountered by different patent offices, and the complexity of this situation is further compounded by regional nuances.
The success of an expedition depends on expert guidance
Patent offices are reporting year over year increases in applications anywhere from 3% (EPO) to 6-7% (USPTO) to 16-17% (China), with no foreseeable end in sight. As the volume of material grows, time, money, availability of in-house references and risk must be weighed when deciding whether to perform your own research or engage an outside professional. If you choose to climb Mt. Everest or set out to scale a volcano in Hawaii, you’d be wise to carefully select a knowledgeable guide to take you safely to the summit. When navigating the ever-changing and ever-growing global IP landscape, your need for expert guidance merits the same consideration.