If well executed, strategic intellectual property (IP) management can contribute to top-line results and also enhance the bottom line, says Sevim Süzeroglu-Melchiors, IP expert at Dennemeyer Consulting, an international IP management specialist.
Hans-Georg Greif, head of patents at RWE, adds: “In a joint project team with Dennemeyer Consulting, we developed our new patent strategy, organisation, processes, resources and basics for software tools. I am proud that our implemented patent competence centre passed several, even externally driven, assessments, with the result that our patent management is up to date with no need to improve further.”
Efficient IP management is important to handle the growing number of patents and trade marks, as companies are now filing more and more IP rights.
All major patent offices around the world are exposed to a patent explosion. Over the past five years, the number of patent applications filed globally has grown by 33.5 per cent. The trend is particularly dramatic in some commercially significant technologies. In computer technology, for example, the increase is 85 per cent.
On top of the increase in numbers is the complexity and intricacy of patents. In recent years, the growth in patent voluminosity has become extreme. For example, the European Patent Office received an application with 283 priorities, 80,259 sequences and an estimated 50,000 pages in a biotechnology application filed together with genetic sequence listings.
Paradoxically, this increase in patent activity does not seem to be the result of a boost in research and development spending. R&D expenditures of OECD member states revealed a slight decrease.
An explanation for this apparent paradox lies in a trend towards “strategic patenting”, where patent applications are motivated not by the purpose to protect a specific innovation, but by a desire to secure a market position against competitors.
A strategic patent or portfolio of patents can prevent a competitor from developing, manufacturing, offering and selling a similar product. It may also deter competitors from even entering the market.
In short, the role of IP management has changed from creating a legal barrier to prevent copying of innovations, thereby securing a return on investment, to a sophisticated utilisation of patents to achieve maximum strategic benefit and business competitiveness.
How to Handle a Growing Patent Portfolio
The drawback of strategic patenting is the resources needed to manage a complex portfolio. Quantity does not guarante equality; indeed the larger the portfolio, the more difficult it becomes to ensure that it is serving its strategic and economic purpose. When a patent portfolio becomes too large, individual patents and applications often cannot be managed efficiently.
However, methodologies and tools are available to support analysis, reporting and steering of complex portfolios. Performance indicators, such as patent strength, citation frequency, and age and country distribution, can be evaluated and interpreted to support strategic decisions. Specialised visualisation methods, for example patent landscaping, create transparency for non-IP professionals and help enable sound executive decisions.
Dennemeyer’s experience shows that the evaluation and interpretation of patent portfolios, including the generation of patent landscapes, requires a deep understanding of the technology, the patent portfolio and the competitive environment.