3 Ways How Patents Can Help To Find New Clients, Markets And Applications
The patent database is classically a tool for inventors and patent lawyers. However, the abundant data can be applied for identifying new clients, finding new markets or complete new applications of your technology in a very systematic manner. This article works out simple procedures to collect business and marketing data out of patents.
1. More of the same
The easiest way to harvest more business out of the patent database is: Take your clients, make a competitor analysis, and target them as customers. Where else can you generate a list of competitors in one click?
Once the list is made a geographical chart can filter the targets within 250 km. If it is a material or a chemical you are selling, it is easy to filter all companies that need that chemical, since it is published as an ingredient in their inventions. The list will contain your own competitors too; however, it wouldn’t be the first time competing businesses are supplying one another. The figure below shows a list of potential clients for metal foam, a product used in the case below.
Fig. 1 Combined analysis, "users" of metal foam and competitors of that Rolls-Royce
Combining both approaches, a list of potential clients of a new material can be distilled, every company can be expanded in a list of competitors, that become new potential clients. If you have created a new product or technology and are looking for new applications, that case is worked out in the section “Solution seeks Problem” below.
2. More for less
Companies need innovative solutions to guarantee competitiveness. With plenty of technology and knowledge as a commodity, clients want new performances, convenient solutions at affordable prices. The innovation value of new solutions can be measured on the basis of 4 factors: performance, harmful effects, user ease and expense. In short, this leads us to 4 perspectives for innovation:
In the development of a product or process there are 4 factors that play a role, but usually one is dominant. Let us take an example before we go into detail. We take the example of a projector. How do we decide what projector to buy? How do we compare a projector with competing products? What don’t you want in a projector? It is more than just the price. The patent value analysis will scan the projector patent pool and automatically classify the patents in the four categories, related to what value they claim.
- performance innovation: increase in performance of the addition of functions
- durable innovation: decrease in damaging effects
- ergonomic innovation: more ease of use
- economic innovation: lower costs
Fig. 2 Value Equation analysis of a projector
Firstly, accuracy, image quality, performance, illumination, resolution and colour balance are elements to the performance of your projector. It is about more good. Competing on these factors is competing on performance. However, the second column brings noise, damage, dust, heat, this does not relate to more of the good, but less of the bad. You have the same performance, but less of the harm. In total this is also more value. The third column shows all elements that are related to the ease of use, autofocus, convenience, operability, self-calibrating are about the convenience. It is about the interface between the user and the projector. Finally, in the fourth column, you can compare based on cost; its cost of components, power consumption, efficiency, its energy cost. The decision can thereby be influenced by the 4 parameters; you want more performance, less harm, easier and cheaper... These are exactly the elements that can be marketed in a sales pitch as benefits over competing technologies.
Fig. 3 Modifier analysis of a projector
A slightly different spotlight on the same patent pool is depicted on the right of the value equation. It is an analysis that seeks where in the domain the modifying buttons are. What are they trying to increase? So market more brightness, more contrast, more luminance etc. What is the patent pool claiming to decrease? Cost, size, power consumption, etc. And finally what is to be stabilized? Image, colour balance, position, etc. The modifier analysis is a great visualization for a quick and dirty look on a certain patent area.
The terms that are classified in both of these analyses, are the typical terminology that is used in marketing campaigns, flyers, websites and sales pitches. They can be used as inspiration for sales and marketing.
3. Solution seeks problem
Rather than having a problem that is looking for a solution, marketing is occasionally faced with a solution looking for problems. Having invented a new material in the company, how can all potential clients be identified? Take the case of metal foam. One of the first metal foam was created by baking a bread with metal powder. Later Bekaert developed an economic way to lost-PS foam technique, creating a fantastic open celled metal foam. The foam can be made out of any metal, typically aluminium, strong and light, open cell, thermal conductive and beautiful. But, who needs it...?
Fig. 4 Bread/Metal foam (Bekaert)
There is a very systematic way to identify potential clients for new products or technology. It is based on identifying the benefits of the material, and scanning which patents describe that need.
A simple search on Noun Groups in metal foam patents will bring an overview of existing uses. E.g. “crosslinked cellular metal foam serving as catalyst support and heat dissipating structure” - KR20070106509A The figure below shows initial results in batteries, catalyst, filter in exhaust systems, structural elements in steam turbine rotor, etc.
Fig. 5 Some applications in metal foam patents
Even though they are existing uses, they could be new to the inventing company. In the case of Bekaert, the difference was made in the cheaper production of the foam, so existing applications are potential targets. However, the approach is aimed at finding new applications. How?
If the mother is identified, we can find other children. The applications are built around the structural, thermal, flow, electrical and sound properties of metal foam. In order to systematically look for new applications for this material, the properties and functions need to be identified. The identification of properties and function can be supported by an analysis of adjectives and verbs respectively. Once a selection is made of some abstract descriptive properties and functions, a combination analysis can be started to find patents outside the pool, which require the same characteristics. The figure below shows a selection of 8 terms, scanned through the global database. The top 1000 patents reveal new products, such as heat sink and cool fin. The biggest advantages of metal foam is that it is light and have a rapid heat dissipation. This could possibly prevent hot spots on cylinders of small plane engines. But looking at the patent pool, one large area immerging is the LED light cooling.
Fig. 6 Combination analysis on metal foam patent characteristics into global patent database revealing heat sink, cooling fins, and heat dissipation in LED lights
TAL replaced traditional cooling fins by aluminium foam, claiming in their product B4 “This technology uses aluminium foam to conduct heat from the LEDs. The foam has an extremely high surface aspect ratio and is very compact.”
Fig. 7 The solution of TAL, aluminium foam and Philips patent WO2007148280 metal foam light armature
Since the advantages of metal foam seems obvious a patent pool on cool fins or heat sinks gives over 60000 patents that can reveal possible new applications for the material. That is just on property, it is possible to explore each and every property function relation through the patent database. An example exploration is illustrated schematically below. Note that properties allow functions that can translate into applications.
Fig. 8 potentially new applications of metal foam through patent property function scanning