How To Discover Valuable Patents 27/04/2018 by Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and are not associated with Intellectual Property Watch. IP-Watch expressly disclaims and refuses any responsibility or liability for the content, style or form of any posts made to this forum, which remain solely the responsibility of their authors. By Bastian July In May 1968, the submarine USS Scorpion disappeared after a tour of duty in the North Atlantic. The initial search area was a circle twenty miles wide and thousands of feet deep. Instead of asking one or two experts for input, Navy officer John Craven assembled a large group of independent experts with a wide range of knowledge. The group included mathematicians, submarine specialists, salvage men and many others. Combining their knowledge, Craven was able to estimate the submarine’s likely location. It was found 200 yards from the group’s collective estimate. But can you also turn to the Wisdom of the Crowd when it comes to discovering the fortunes lying hidden in patents? In his book “The Wisdom of Crowds”, New Yorker staff writer James Surowiecki pointed to three major criteria that give a crowd of experts a clear edge over individual experts: diversity, independence and aggregation of knowledge and expertise. Time and time again the wisdom of the crowd has proven useful as it encompasses a diverse and independent range of opinions and experiences, which could have gone unnoticed without it. Patents and the Wisdom of Crowd met in the USPTO’s Peer To Patent pilot program. The pilot, which ran from June 2007 until June 2009, opened certain patent examinations up to public participation on the web. Volunteer experts submitted prior art they thought might be relevant to determining if an invention was new or inventive. The pilot’s web site attracted more than 74,000 visitors. Of those more than 2,600 registered to become volunteer experts. Peer to Patent contributed relevant prior art in more than 25 percent of the applications it handled. Crowd sourcing platforms take a somewhat different approach. They ask crowd experts to contribute to prior art studies for granted patents. But the results of these studies do not necessarily become public like in the USPTO’s Peer To Patent pilot program. IP analytics tools can already propose recommendations for prior art. A few years down the road, Artificial Intelligence (AI) may have learned to look for the best prior art and could be on the brink of beating the best human prior art searchers. No question about it, prior art searches are very important. But the grand prize of patents is something else: identifying the golden nuggets, finding the needles in the haystack or tracking down the Rembrandts in the attic. Identifying a valuable patent can be much harder than finding prior art. You have to understand the scope of the patent claims and then take into account detectability, potential customer demand for a new technology and its potential market success. Programs like Stanford University’s iFarm Teams employ multi-disciplinary and diverse teams to tackle this challenge and identify a pathway for inventions to the marketplace. At the same time, social media and similar trends like reviews and ratings have become pervasive. However, companies have not tapped into this potential as of yet. It is time to break new ground in the interaction between patent owners, techies and technology licensees. The time has come to identify and speak about the most valuable patents in hot spots such as autonomous driving, smart glasses and blockchain. Which company leapfrogged the competition? Which new innovation excites you the most? Which patent shows real potential? Historically, companies have shied away from having others comment on their patents. On the one hand, companies have relied on the size of their patent portfolios to impress newcomers or negotiate license exchanges. On the other hand, companies with active licensing programs have not wanted to say much or have much of a discussion about their patents. If they say too much, it could haunt them in claim construction. For this reason, the place for such discussions, if any, is ever more expensive litigation. In today’s world, communication is no longer just unilateral. To have an impact, we may have to allow feedback, reviews and ratings on what we are inventing and patenting. We may not like if somebody points out the downsides of an invention or a patent’s glitches. But by opening the floor for questions and comments about their inventions, companies can communicate their innovativeness to the market. That’s what Tesla did in 2014. Elon Musk wrote: “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” Many read this as a call to innovate in the electric vehicle space. What’s more, Elon Musk sent a very clear message about Tesla’s technology leadership to the market: “Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers.” Communicating your innovativeness can become even more powerful when you continue to count on innovation and patents but also invite input from the outside. Some may wonder if a crowd of experts from all over the world should be tasked with discovering valuable patents. Others may wonder why we need such a community in addition to in-house resources and an organization’s patent attorneys reviewing patents. The search for the submarine USS Scorpion highlights the advantages of each individual expert and the combined Wisdom of the Crowd. It was only in a diverse group of independent experts that the task of locating the submarine was completed with relative efficiency and accuracy. And it is through the Wisdom of the Crowd that one can experience the many different perspectives of a patent, and in the process connect with potential buyers or licensees. Follow us as we apply James Surowiecki’s ideal conditions for the Wisdom of the Crowd to patent reviews: “But if you can assemble a diverse group of people who possess varying degrees of knowledge and insight, you’re better off entrusting it with major decisions than leaving them in the hands of one or two people, no matter how smart those people are.” Bastian July is the founder and CEO of GoodIP. The patent review site www.goodip.io enlists the Wisdom of the Crowd to discover valuable patents. Before founding GoodIP, Bastian closed various multi-million dollar license agreements for the lighting company OSRAM and acquired various patents bolstering OSRAM’s portfolio. 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