If you’re in a technology business, you should be mining patent legal status data for business intelligence. Legal status data tells you which technologies are hot and which are not, who’s entering an area and who’s exiting, who’s collaborating, who’s competing, and who’s a takeover candidate. Legal status information is information that patent owners are required to provide, or that the government produces, from which you can learn the value of a patent.
Patent Value Estimation
In general, the more money spent on a patent, the more valuable the patent. Analysis of patent legal status lets you estimate how much a company invests in a patent, and therefore how valuable they think the patent is. Here are kinds of patent legal status data, and how they relate to patent value as you can see from this post – how to get a patent with InventHelp.
Patent Maintenance Fee Payment Data
After a patent has issued, maintenance fees must be paid to keep the patent in force. In the U.S., maintenance fees are due 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after a patent is granted. If a maintenance fee isn’t paid, the patent expires. Since an expired patent is worthless, and since patent owners don’t lightly discard valuable property, knowledge of which patents they keep in force, and which they allow to expire, is valuable. The 3.5 year fee is the lowest, and some owners will pay the 3.5 year fee on a patent that has yet to earn a return. On the other hand, payment of the 7.5 year and 11.5 year fees clearly identifies a valuable patent.
A listing of current maintenance fee amounts can be found on the U.S. Patent Office fees page. Maintenance fee payment information for U.S. patents can be found in the U.S. Patent Office maintenance fee database. You need the patent number and the patent application number, both of which can be found on the front page of a patent, to look up maintenance fee status.
Patent Assignment Data
While the inventor initially owns the invention, at least in the U.S., ownership is typically assigned to the company employing the inventor. Under U.S. law, assignments must be recorded to be effective as against third parties who do not have actual knowledge of the assignment. To perfect the recognition of their ownership, companies record the assignment in the U.S. Patent Office’s assignment database. Thus, assignment information tells you who owns a patent. If there are multiple assignees, which may happen in the case of corporate-academic collaborations, the assignees each have an equal right to full use of the patent. An assignment search will identify patents that comprise a company’s portfolio. A high concentration of patents in a particular technology may highlight a corporate strength or a focus of new research and development.
One caveat regarding assignment data is that the information can get stale. For example, reassignments are often not recorded after a corporate takeover. To find Pfizer patents you need to search not only Pfizer, but also Warner Lambert, American Cyanamid, Wyeth, Parke-Davis, Pharmacia, and others. In addition, the assignment database has nothing to say about license agreements. A university may own a patent, but the rights may have been assigned to a corporation.
You can search assignment data at the U.S. Patent Office assignment database. The information is searchable by patent number, patent application publication number, assignor name, and assignee name.
Patent Family Data
If an invention is valuable a company will want to patent it not only in the country where it was invented, but in every country where it can be profitably sold. To get the most thorough protection in the U.S., a company will also file divisional applications, continuation applications, and continuation-in-part applications. Count all these countries, and applications within each country, and you’ll get a good idea of an invention’s value. That’s because there is a direct correlation between family size and the money a company has invested in protecting the invention.
One place to find patent family data is on the Espacenet database of the European Patent Office. You can search the database in a variety of ways. When you are looking at the information for an individual patent, click INPADOC patent family, in the menu on the left, to retrieve the patent family data.
Naturally, if you need any help searching, InventHelp is happy to help – learn why new inventors turn to InventHelp.