||Ever wondered what Google has been up to lately? How about Yahoo!, Microsoft, IBM or other high tech companies? Many professionals, companies and organisations frequently ask similar questions about their key competitors. However, since this information is proprietary and highly confidential, there is almost no likelihood of getting these answers directly from the companies.|
Since companies, especially those in the technology sector, are constantly innovating and creating barriers for their competitors, they are also continously filing patent applications and getting many – if not most – of these granted. Hence, searching through databases such as those provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which contain granted patents and recently published patent applications, is one way of gaining an insight into the strategic direction of these companies.
In this article, Evalueserve research shows that traditional searching techniques that only use databases such as the USPTO database, which comprises granted patents and published applications, for analysing a company’s patent portfolio are usually not sufficient. Evalueserve suggests the following complementary techniques:
1) One technique is searching through patent-assignment databases, some of which are freely available and others provided by Intellectual Property (IP) database vendors as licenses. For example, a complementary search within the USPTO patent assignment database can yield some of the missing ownership information, especially if the granted patents and published applications were filed by one entity and later acquired by another.
2) Another technique is checking accuracy by using complementary databases, e.g., correlating Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) filing information with USPTO filing information.
3) Yet another technique is performing inventor-based searches along with assignee-based searches to get better results. This technique really works well because there are many published applications for which ownership information may not have been recorded earlier.
Finally, this article presents two case studies that use the complementary techniques mentioned above, as well as some of Evalueserve’s findings about Google and Yahoo!, which may surprise you.