While there is more freely available patent information from around the world than ever before, both governmental and commercial data offerings still leave executives ill-equipped to make crucial strategic decisions. That is the view of YP Jou, the man charged with managing Foxconn’s sprawling patent operation. In an article for IAM, Jou challenges the industry to up its game across a range of key patent owner needs.

Asian jurisdictions can prove particularly thorny when it comes to gleaning useful business insights from what should be a mountain of useful data points, Jou explains:

[I]n Japan, Taiwan and China, […] patent reports can be based on any of the nearly 70 patent landscape models used in those markets. These models are all based on the patent office’s classification system and generally poor-quality patent data. They do not rely on an information matrix (or dashboard) combining intelligence from industry, technology and products. Such information is what many users actually consult through different stages of R&D, and through different phases of patent asset lifecycle assessments. Consequently, these existing patent landscape models cannot generate interpretable information that would be more useful to decision makers. The patent landscape methods practised in the United States and Europe do not transcend a mere collection of data from databases into actionable intelligence information. In short, globally existing patent landscaping methods are ill equipped to support the needs of decision makers such as CEOs and chief technology officers.

That’s not to say that chief IP officers should ignore or mistrust the resources that they do have in front of them. The danger, Jou seems to think, is in over-reliance on quantitative tools that may not show the whole picture.

China is a particular challenge, especially when it comes to what is publically available in official information. For example, as things stand, it is often a lot more difficult to find user-friendly platforms on a par with what’s available to follow things like patent assignments in the US. This is no doubt an area that will improve as the country’s IP industry matures; while in fields like the use of big data, there are indications that China is ahead of other jurisdictions, something Jou himself has discussed with IAM.

Earlier this year, I was moderating a panel on patent data at an IPBC event, and was surprised to field a number of quite pointed comments from the audience (and later in private discussions) about the shortcomings of various approaches. While no firms or government databases are claiming their offerings to be perfect or the only tool you need, there are clearly a few patent owners left feeling less than confident when it comes to the intelligence at their disposal.

For his part, Jou seems hopeful about the promise of machine learning and related approaches to making patent data more actionable. Jou is one of Asian IP's ultimate insiders, and it would be no surprise if some of the biggest advances in that area emerged from this challenging part of the patent world.