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In this article, Saumya Sinha, a student of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law discusses everything you need to know about Automated Patent Landscaping.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has defined patent as an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. The patent owner thus is prevented from commercial exploitation of his product i.e. there can be no manufacture, distribution, sale, import or use of the product without the patent owner’s consent. Such exclusive right, generally, expires on the completion of 20 years from the filing of application for grant of a patent.

Patents hold immense importance as the product for which it can be granted can range from anything between a small pin to computers, android phones, etc. It is also granted for a better version of a technology which renders it more efficient. Getting a patent is important because if a product becomes profitable in the market, the inventor needs protection from other businesses in the market so that it is not commercially used by others without the owner’s consent. Having understood the meaning and importance of patent right, it will be easy to understand the concept of patent landscaping.

Patent Landscaping

As a patent is an exclusive right with respect to an invention, be it a product or a process, it is of immense importance and provides protection to the inventor from the commercial exploitation of such invention. The consequence of the development of science and technology is such that many projects on research and development continue to take place every day. A lot of resources are invested into conducting a research. Therefore, it is important for a person to know the patents which have been granted or the application of which is still pending in order to have knowledge about the likelihood of getting a patent for products that are sought to be developed. This is exactly what Patent Landscaping is. This is a strategical approach taken up by businesses for effective research and development projects. A patent landscape can help companies minimize research risks by focusing on areas that do not already contain a lot of patents and can help companies identify areas for future growth where there are few patents pending.[1] However, it is important to note that a report of patent landscaping does not contain an exhaustive list of patents but a snapshot of the patent situation at a particular time.[2]

Patent Landscaping Report

Preparing a patent landscaping report is considered to be an “art” because it involves both skill and knowledge. It is a complex procedure which is carried out in multiple steps and stages. The initial step is important with respect to the aim of carrying out patent landscaping. This is important for a clear vision of goal leads to better organization of work. Competitive analysis, White Space Analysis, Technology Monitoring, Freedom to Operate and General Patent Research are some examples of the reasons for which patent landscaping is used.

PLR involves meticulous data mining because any technological area has a vast pool of data that needs to be analysed. Therefore, it is generally recommended that data mining or data analysis should be carried out with the help of a suitable computer aided program or software.[3] Another thing that has to be borne in mind is that since the data is so vast, the research needs to be focused. Thus, it is imperative to define the limits of such research by focussing on the product or area at hand. This demands to focus on the points mentioned below.

  • There should be a deliberation on whether to include product terms, technology alternatives, multiple application areas in the search,
  • There must be agreement on the goal and outcome of the patent landscaping project.
  • Since Intellectual Property is not confined to a country or two, the geographical vastness leads to huge data to be analysed. Thus, defining the regions and countries to be included in the boundary conditions helps in narrowing down the vast area of analysis and consequently, in a focused research.
  • Another important parameter which has to be limited is ‘time’. Patent landscape analysis involves time stamping of events in a particular technology area, and this helps the interested party to understand the development of the technology area and to assess the stage of technology – whether it is in nascent stage, or in developing stage, or in the declining stage.[4]

Thus, the PLR contains on the technology and research areas on which fellow businesses are patenting. It also apprises about the patents pending along with information on any new competitor to the business of the person interested in the PLR.

Analysing the pros and cons

It is not surprising to note that performing these tasks and making PLR demands expertise in both legal and technical fields along with a lot of resources. The entire process is a complex and expensive one.  Therefore, it is very important for a person going to pursue the idea of performing patent landscaping to bear in mind all the benefits and drawbacks of the same.

A patent landscape is of immense importance as helps in making decisions and policies for the business. It also helps in analysing the probability of getting a patent in a highly competitive and developing world. It also helps in gauging the intellectual property risks which means that the likelihood of another business to claim patent right over the same technology or product. It also helps in directing the research and development projects of the company in the right direction. Another beneficial aspect is finding of ‘white space’, i.e. those areas where new development or innovation is awaited.

The advantages are also accompanied by certain disadvantages such as limitation of time. With the fast changing technology, a PLR is not expected to be useful for a long period of time because everyday there are numerous changes taking place in the field. Thus, a tedious job of making PLR is not even a long lasting solution for a business and it has to be repeated again and again to keep pace with change and development.

Automated Patent Landscaping

The prefix ‘automated’ suggests the introduction of the concept of artificial intelligence. Thus, automated patent landscaping is the overlapping of the fields of artificial intelligence and the law.  According to the father of Artificial Intelligence, John McCarthy, it is “The science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs”.[5] Thus, it basically makes a computer, computer-controlled-robot or software to think intelligently as a human and consequently, perform as a human. Thus, even the automated patent landscaping is the replacement of human intelligence required for doing patent landscape with an artificial intelligence i.e. computers. Thus, the skills, techniques and training of a human are done away with in the case of automated patent landscaping.

It basically replaces the humungous requirement of human efforts and skills with just a bare minimum human intervention. It is the computer that does most of the job. There are various benefits one gets from automated patent landscaping.

  •    It reduces the risk of human error and thus increases the accuracy of patent landscaping report. With minimal human interference, the chances of human error also reduce, thus, making it beneficial.
  •    It also reduces the cost incurred for the process and is, therefore, an impetus for the businesses and people who could not take up patent landscaping because of an expensive deal.
  •    It is also repeatable and is beneficial for the external audience who are concerned only with the output and not the methodology used for making the same.
  •    The time taken for conducting patent landscape is a time extensive task. However, with greater involvement of technology and lesser involvement of human, the time taken for such task has decreased considerably.
  •    Basically, it takes just ‘one click’ to prepare a patent landscape report. It is from here that it can be modified according to needs and requirements.[6]
  •    Thus, automated patent landscaping is also very flexible and can be adapted to new advances and future research.[7]

The need for automated patent landscaping

Patent landscaping deals with complex data and the report making process is a tedious task. Therefore, if artificial intelligence concept is not introduced into patent law, there is a risk of decline in the use of these systems. The patent system today is challenged as never before. The requirements of novelty and non-obviousness are becoming increasingly difficult to meet and determine with any great level of certainty.  The causes for this are well known… There is simply way too much data for a human to read, analyse and understand. It is clear we need help. Step up artificial intelligence (AI).”[8] Therefore, automated patent landscaping comes for rescue from the difficulties offered by the global patent system. This ensures both effectiveness and efficiency.

[1] Lisa Magloff, https://info.legalzoom.com/patent-landscaping-20459.html.

[2] Id.

[3] http://www.mondaq.com/india/x/690720/Patent/An+Insight+Into+Patent+Landscape+Analysis

[4] Id.

[5] https://www.tutorialspoint.com/artificial_intelligence/artificial_intelligence_overview.htm

[6] http://www.acclaimip.com/automated-patent-landscapes/

[7] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10506-018-9222-4

[8] https://www.iam-media.com/law-policy/artificial-intelligence-and-future-patent-system

 

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