IP analytics can be used as a tool to build strong and smart IP portfolios. IP analytics provides the existing knowledge in the art and also provides efficient monitoring and tracking system of both newly published IP applications and issued IP rights. The commercial significance of IP valuation plays a meaningful role in IP related searches. Therefore, comprehending the importance of any IP search before even starting to work on one’s invention or creation is the need of hour and one must not disregard the fact that there may be an IP that is already filed or registered, and one re-filing a similar IP may lead to IP issues such as infringements, oppositions, absence of freedom to operate, etc.
Highlighted, in brief, is the VOWEL approach towards fetching meaningful prior art data, along with the relevance of each of the VOWEL approach of searching IP. For the ease in illustration and understanding, the IP search- VOWEL approach is confined and explained below for Patents - as IP. One should weigh a similar search approach concerning other IPs such as trademark, designs, and copyrights too. It needs an understanding of the matter, the methods for searching, and the available resources for searching to achieve relevant search dataset result.
THE VOWEL APPROACH – (A, E, I, O, U)
In-depth understanding of the subject matter for search is the first and the foremost aspect. Before starting with the search, one must try and understand the subject matter in terms of what is novel or new and how the novel feature contributes to the inventive step of the invention. Client requirement is another valuable criterion of the search. Different search necessities depend on the level at which the invention is then. It is the job of the searcher to understand what kind of search results are sought by the Client that would ultimately help in designing around the search strategies. An added point to be considered is the industry in which the subject matter is useful. Not understanding the subject matter clearly could make searching a complicated process. Therefore, when designing a search strategy, one must also thoroughly understand the patent search process in terms of usage of open source and paid databases to retrieve relevant dataset. Once the theme for the search is unmistakably understood, the next stage of the quest involves ascertaining central elements of the subject matter.
Once the client requirement is understood, and the subject matter is rightly grasped, comes the point to identify the apt search representation expected to the client. There are several searches, such as a state of art search, invalidity search, patentability search, and freedom to operate search. State of the art search revolves around the quest to fetch prior art patent and non-patent literature that discloses similar aspects of the underlying invention proposed by the client. A patentability search is a prior art search conducted to ascertain whether the intended subject matter is patent-eligible or not, to enable the process of a patent application filing. Such patent search aims at determining if the invention is novel. In the case of invalidity search, prior art search is often based on a patent that has been granted. The purpose of an invalidity search is to try to identify prior art that was overlooked by the patent examiner during prosecution to render the patent invalid. FTO searches or clearance searches are done to scrutinize whether any product or process utilized or carried out by a body is not infringing on any live patent’s claim. In simple terms, FTO search ascertains whether there is freedom to operate in a particular jurisdiction from a legal point of view. Once the client requirement of search is identified, the next approach at searching is to identify critical components of the subject matter.
The key features may include multifaceted aspects of the topic such as the product or process steps, a namely important element of a product or essential stage of the process. For example, while it comes to a product subject matter, the vital factor would be any novel or a new section of the product which is unexplored, coming to a process, it could be any requisite sub-step of the process which is unmapped in the art. Once the crucial features are listed, the next step is to identify the synonyms of the novel elements of the subject matter to design a pertinent search approach. Again, the search strategies have to be of various permutations and combinations of keywords, and one must have multiple plans for the corresponding dataset. Another approach to limit the plethora of data into appropriate dataset would be attempting to combine the keywords with the Patent Classification system. A patent classification system is a hierarchical order that indexes patents and utility models according to the diverse areas of technology or their technical content. Once the search maneuverings are thoroughly defined then is the time to investigate said strategies on numerous search sources.
After striking the relevant search strings on the databases, the further approach is to explore and scan the search hits on by one. Now, this comes with an accurate understanding of the subject matter in terms of novelty and inventive step. Failing which may result in missing to consider a very close prior art or may come down to fetching of the wrong set of patent data for further analysis. As mentioned above, the exported data set is explored and refined by way of technical aspects of the underlying invention. Along with search, knowledge of the Patent Law is desirable to examine the relevance of data. For example, there may arise a scenario where, in the relevant dataset the content disclosed in a patent might be of high relevance, however, the patent document may still not or may not be credible since said patent may not be an active patent. The legal status of patents matters when it comes to furnishing expert opinion on FTO or invalidity related searches. Scrutinizing the relevance for most patent-related aspects, therefore, revolves around an understanding of technical aspects as well as a judicial understanding of IP. Once the relevant data is scanned, the next approach is the analysis of the shortlisted patent data.
The focus of this approach lies in a brief exploration of the concept of analysis of the relevant shortlisted patent references. The analysis mainly depends on the subject matter interpretation for relevance and assessment for prior art search and is based on taxonomy for analysis. The patent analysis involves converting the raw data into information useful for decision-making. Taxonomy includes various analytical parameters of the invention in a statistical manner for which the search is to be conducted. The process of preparing the systematic taxonomy is generally termed as parameterization. The analysis depends on finding out the parameters present in the patent citations of the search and recording the same in the suitable format, preferably in a spreadsheet i.e .xls format. For example, in case the invention is related to a precise chemical process, the analytical parameters would include temperature, pH, specific % weight range of the actives, etc. The analysis provides a generalized view of the underlying invention and briefly provides an idea of the advancements as well as helps in identifying the grey area within the technology under search study. Patent analysis provides useful information that allows the scientists and the innovative companies in decisionmaking, to provide specific scientific solutions that ultimately help businesses operate more effectively. Once an analyst reviews and analysis each patent document, the final and the most informative approach is the orientation of the analyzed data.
The last and the most informative approach is to orient the already analyzed data in such a form that mere visual landscape helps in strategic management of the firm’s technology and product or service development process. The orientation of the analyzed data involves standardization and visualization of the data. In simple terms, it includes final cleaning up of the analyzed data to achieve concluding view of the technology under study. The interpreted data is oriented in the form of chart representations such as bar charts, pie diagrams, bubble diagrams, etc. These charts enable to understand technological trend and advancements effectively, and help to interpret the technology evolution. Representation in the form of charts further demonstrates leading patent assignees, collaboration partners, white space analysis, technology evaluations, etc. Last, but not the least, a search report is prepared that provides graphic representations of information from search results. This report is the final information product of the search, which is the outcome of the aforesaid VOWEL APPROACH towards IP analytics.
An entity/individual filing a patent application must consider imperative inclusions of novelty, nonobviousness, and industrial applicability, and this confirmation is cemented through patent searches and analysis. The decision on investing additional time and funds into proposed research is basis for a thorough patent search is a norm today. Realizing and imbibing the information from prior art saves ones time, money and avoiding duplicities in research. Search provides insight as to the scope of patent protection that may be granted by the Patent offices. Results also provide the patent drafters a helping hand in designing a patent application, wherein the drafters can draft the patent application to distinguish the proposed invention from the prior art, thereby compounding ones chances of obtaining patent protection. Understanding and applying the VOWEL approach in IP searching will captivate many companies to make strategic decisions and one must not forget that patent information is a contributor to the triumph in today’s knowledge-driven economic world. In recent years, new research and analytics tools in patent mining have accentuated searching and analyzing patent documents. Although one may employ superlative utilities for patent mining, conventional analytics approach for translating patent data into competitive intelligence should not be neglected, and thus the VOWEL approach in IP analytics is a simplistic yet strong methodology to ensure an extended backbone towards the development of research and help in the categorization of key businesses and their technologies.