What Is Patent Landscaping?

by Lisa Magloff
A patent landscape can help companies decide where to focus their research.

A patent landscape can help companies decide where to focus their research.

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Patent landscaping is a type of research process that creates an overview of the patents that are pending or in place in a particular area. For example, if you are developing a new drug for fighting colon caner, a patent landscape will show you what other drugs are already patented or are awaiting patent approval for fighting colon cancer. Patent landscaping is generally conducted by patent attorneys or other patent law experts.

Significance

Patent landscaping is generally performed on behalf of businesses that are seeking to develop new products in a particular area. The information gained from a patent landscape is used to help companies develop their business plans and research and development strategies. A patent landscape can help companies minimize research risks by focusing on areas that do not already contain a lot of patents and can help companies identify areas for future growth where there are few patents pending.

Contents

A patent landscape report will generally contain information about whether your competitors are patenting in the same business or research areas as your company. It may also turn up information on any new entrants to the market in your area and whether there are any patents pending that are similar to your outstanding or upcoming patent applications. A patent landscape is not an exhaustive list of patents. Instead, it contains a snapshot of the patent situation at a particular time.

Advantages

A patent landscape can provide companies with information about how likely they are to get a patent approved. The United States patent office will not allow patents that are too similar to each other, so it is important to make sure that another company is not conducting research or planning patents in the same research area. Patent landscapes help companies to understand the intellectual property risks involved in research, that is, the likelihood that another company will claim ownership of the same technology.

Disadvantages

A patent landscape cannot tell you what areas you should conduct research in. A patent landscape also cannot tell you if there are any other barriers to research in a particular area, for example, if there are high costs to commercialization in a particular area. Once a company owns a patent, such as for a particular piece of technology, then anyone who wants to use that technology must negotiate a deal to pay royalties for its use. According to a 2011 article in the International Business Times, some companies use patent landscaping to help them apply for thousands of patents in a particular field. This can stifle the development of new technology and raise costs to consumers by forcing companies that need that technology, but cannot get a patent, to sign expensive licensing agreements.