Degrees of Patent Analysis: Which Approach to Use and When?  

POSTED BY Kate Shore and Sarju Bharucha AT 12:45 P.M. FEBRUARY 16, 2010

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Technical patent analysis (not legal) is a valuable tool for decision-making, for companies, inventors, universities and even investors. The approach used to gather and analyze patent data heavily influences the type and quality of data and how it can be utilized. Determining the correct patent analysis approach can be difficult, particularly since getting high quality data can require ample resources (e.g. time, manpower, tools). Depending on the purpose of the search, stakeholders involved, and other factors, certain approaches may be more appropriate for specific circumstances. The three main approaches for patent analysis are:

Good preparation for a patent search can lead to successful and effective patent analysis, whereas the lack of preparation can lead to the disappointed stakeholders, missed IP opportunities, or wasted time. We have found that there are nine key factors that control the decision around what type of patent search is needed.

  1. Purpose: Am I looking for a quick answer to my questions or I am searching for answers to business issues?
  2. Stakeholder: Who will the results be shared with and what influence and/or interest do they have on my search?
  3. Focus & Scope: What are the characteristics of the space I am searching and how broadly do I need to search?
  4. Resources: What resources are available and appropriate, including time, people, tools, and funding?
  5. Assistance: Can I do this search on my own or do I need expert assistance?
  6. Depth: How thoroughly do I need to search to find what I need?
  7. Data Capture: Will I need this information just this once or again in the future? Am I disseminating the data to others?
  8. Quality: Does the data need to be approximate or certain?
  9. Output: How will the results be documented and communicated?

So how do you decide which patent analysis approach is needed or understand the tradeoffs of using one approach over another? The table below provides an easy-to-use guide for choosing the right patent search approach for your circumstances, using the nine key factors.

Degrees of Technical Patent Analysis: Decision Making Tool

Online Inquiry

“Broad Sweep” Search

Targeted Search

1. Purpose

Answer a simple question

Understand rudimentary trends in a space

Data to support decision-making, Answer business issues

2. Stakeholder


Technical, Project Management

Technical, Project Management, Executives, Marketing

3. Focus & Scope

Detailed question

10,000 ft view of a space, Uncomplicated space

Complex space, Very specific concentration

4. Resources

Low cost & quick

Dictated by the scope

Flexible (based on business issues), High ROI

5. Assistance

None needed or IP analyst

IP expert

IP Strategist

6. Depth

Few search strings, tight parameters (e.g. single inventor, key competitor)

Set of search strings, many jurisdictions, wider time span

Comprehensive search strategy, detailed search strings

7. Data Capture

Print a patent or possibly not needed?

Ideal, not required

Valuable business resource - critical to keep

8. Quality

Medium - low number of results enables quick human scan

Medium-Low - relies on search string accuracy, lack of normalization

High - human screened data, custom fields added

9. Output

Answer to question, informal report

Trend analysis, Charts, Weak observations

Detailed insights, Actionable competitive intelligence, Strategy recommendations


Fast, easy, direct

Best approach for an early investigation into a space or dealing with a very large dataset

Needed if the output will be used for making business decisions, Highest resource demand yields highest quality data

TAGS: Kate Shore | Process | Sarju Bharucha
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