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Reviewed by Alec Griffiths, IP Manager | 1 February 2024

What is patent landscaping?

Patent landscaping provides a snapshot of the patent situation for a specific technology, either within a given country, region, or globally. This process helps companies assess the viability of their innovation plans by analysing trends within a technology space. This analysis is a crucial tool to guide R&D teams through the evaluation process.

Why does my business need patent landscaping?

An intensive assessment of a patent landscape helps identify principal patent holders within a specific technology and identify whether serious competitive pressures exist, and whether the technology area is moving into active commercialisation. Using this information, IP managers can identify areas of research where there is little threat of competition and better allocate resources within their research efforts.

Essentially the patent landscape process will identify the key, active players in your technology space, and assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of their patent portfolios.

It can answer the following questions:

  • How will my current and future products fit within the market?
  • What possible whitespaces exist in my field?
  • Where should we be conducting R&D?
  • What is the baseline technology in terms of eligible R&D activity for tax relief?
  • What is the patent situation on a global scale? Are there countries where there is more or less patent activity?
  • Who are my competitors currently partnering with?
  • What is the overall state of the patent ecosystem in my industry?

Patent landscaping is a tool to demonstrate the R&D baseline

A fundamental part of demonstrating that an R&D project is seeking to achieve an advance in overall knowledge or capability is to establish the baseline.

Many businesses assume they know what the baseline is just because they have been in the industry for a few decades. But the only way to be absolutely certain is to analyse the patent landscape.

Many products and technologies never make it to market, so effectively remain “hidden”. This can be because of a change in company leadership, direction or market strategy. Or maybe the process is still in progress or has stalled because of an issue with the patent or the cost.

So just because your competitors don’t currently sell an innovative product, it doesn’t follow that they haven’t carried out the R&D before you.

The caveat with patents is that all patents and patent applications become publicly available knowledge and therefore need to be considered when establishing the baseline. The difficulty however, is that they can be notoriously difficult to find, often requiring a skilled IP professional. But regardless of how difficult it may be to find particular patents or patent applications, they can still be held against you when trying to establish the baseline.

When would a business need patent landscaping?

Patent landscaping would be the most valuable to a business when:

  • Deciding where R&D should be targeted
  • Prior to development of a new product or process
  • Entering a new market
  • Looking for potential M&A targets or licensing opportunities
  • Enhancing competitor and market intelligence
  • Determining the R&D tax relief baseline

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