[2/3] SERIES OF ARTICLES: “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR COMPETITION?”
Article 2 of 3: Study of technology areas of interest to a company
Dominique Pomerleau & Frédéric Venne
Metallurgical Engineering, P. Engineer, Engineering Physics, Patent Agents
This article is the second in a series of three publications on the topic: “What do you want to know about your competition?” This article will introduce the study of technology areas of interest to a company. It includes a number of graphical representations that outline the various technology areas in which a company operates, in addition to providing information about the intellectual property strategy deployed by the company in question.
The first article in this series introduced the concept of mapping a technology area. As a reminder, the mapping of a technology area, which is based on the use of intellectual property “big data,” makes it possible to compare the players operating in a particular technology area. The analysis presented in the first article dealt with the alpine touring ski binding industry.
However, some companies are active in multiple technology areas. That is the case for certain entities with operations in intrinsically multidisciplinary areas. A better knowledge of all the technology areas in which a company has business interests may be relevant for a current or future competitor or partner.
In the next section, we present a fictitious example of a study of technology areas of interest to a company to illustrate the potential of studies based on big data analysis.
Study of technology areas of interest to a company
Some companies, including relatively large ones, offer products in multiple technology areas. For example, Salomon designs and manufactures technical clothing, alpine skis, cross-country and touring skis, snowboards, shoes, bindings and a variety of other outdoor equipment. Salomon’s propensity to diversify its business is graphically represented in Figure 1, which illustrates the company’s technology cluster map. Figure 1 provides an overview of all the technology areas in which Salomon is active – at least from an intellectual property perspective.
There are several situations that may warrant an in-depth assessment of an entity’s patent portfolio, such as a transaction, the establishment of a partnership or the consideration of its place in a technology area.
|Figure 1: Map of Salomon’s technology clusters|
To produce the graphic representations included in this article, a database was created. The database contains patents and patent applications published since January 1, 2002, with Salomon appearing as the holder (current or past) and/or applicant. The database generated has 607 patent families. About 52% of them are abandoned, expired or revoked patents and applications; about 45% are in force; and about 3% are pending patent applications. Four patents belonging to this portfolio have been the subject of litigation, and 20 patent applications have been the subject of opposition proceedings. On average, each patent family includes 2.6 patents or patent applications.
The study also shows that Salomon’s patent portfolio is relatively old, as shown in Figure 2. Indeed, Salomon’s technology investments appear to have been in decline for about 20 years, with the exception of a small uptick in 2012 and 2013. Further analysis determined that the technology investments in 2012 and 2013 were in the footwear industry. The tools used to generate the database also allow us to assess the costs of maintaining patent portfolios and patent applications. In our example, the cost of maintaining Salomon’s patent portfolio and patent applications is about US$285,000 for 2022, compared with about US$331,000 in 2021.
|Figure 2: Technology investment over the last 20 years|
The database generated for Salomon’s patent and patent application portfolio also provides a better understanding of its geographical intellectual property strategy. For all technology areas combined, Salomon primarily protects its inventions in France, the United States, Europe and Germany. This trend is illustrated in Figure 3. Interestingly, Canada is not among the top 10 intellectual property protection countries for Salomon.
|Figure 3: Technology investment over the last 20 years|
It is also possible to determine the strength[i] of each patent in the patent portfolio. For example, analysis in the database, generated for the purposes of this article, revealed that the Salomon-owned patent family with the greatest strength includes US patent no. 10,631,594, filed in December 2012, a representative illustration of which is shown in Figure 4. It should be noted that the eight Salomon patent families with the greatest strength are in the footwear industry.
|Figure 4: Representative illustration of patent US-10,631,594.|
This second article presented an example of the study of technology areas of interest to a company. Interestingly, it was shown that this type of study, which is based on the use of big data, provides a good overview of the technology areas in which a company is active, in addition to providing information on the intellectual property strategy deployed by the company being studied.
It is important to note that the examples and indicators included in this article are only a small fraction of the analytical possibilities available, and that there are as many ways to gather information about your competition as there are questions you have about them.
If you need more information or have questions about mapping a technology area, please contact Dominique Pomerleau and Frédéric Venne.
The third and final article in this series of publications on the topic “What do you want to know about your competition?” will be published shortly and will deal with a case study comparing two companies working in the same technology area.
[i] Numerical indices can be generated to identify key inventions in a technology area or those belonging to our own portfolio of patents and patent applications. For example, the technology impact index is based on the number of times the analyzed patent families have been referred to by the owner or by third parties, with a correction for the age of the patent family and the technology area. An average patent family has an index of 1. The market index is a GDP-based index of countries or regions where the patent families being studied are issued or pending. The strength index is based on the impact index and the market index. It is used to assess whether the patents of company X are stronger than the patents of company Y and which patents are the strongest in a group of patent families.