Like heirloom hunters crawling through the family attic, businesses are turning to new technologies to help blow the dust off the relics in their patent files.
The high-tech efforts to ease the legal and business complexities of managing intellectual property are helping businesses better safeguard their innovations from infringement. Companies are also turning to the new tools to look for potential licensing relationships and to discover untapped areas of development.
"There is great value in anything that we can do to gain more and better information," said Annette Kahler, director of intellectual property at American Management Systems Inc., a business and IT consultancy in Fairfax, Va. "[Intellectual property] considerations are key in our business and technology decisions [and provide] a strong competitive advantage."
Companies such as IBM, Lucent Technologies Inc. and Dell Computer Corp. have pocketed major windfalls by capitalizing on the recent advances in patent analysis, and such tools may contribute to new business opportunities.
"Patents and innovation drive business; they are the currency of the future," said Kevin Rivette, CEO and founder of Aurigin Systems Inc., a Cupertino, Calif., maker of patent management and analysis tools.
Aurigin this week is set to announce a new service for companies looking to get into intellectual property management without a major investment in software and infrastructure.
Aurigin will offer online access to its flagship Aureka system, which provides research and reporting on patent activity and detailed graphical analysis of patent strategy. Along with the new AOS (Aurigin Online Services), the company will introduce the Aurigin Consulting and Education service to help spread Rivettes message of success through patent strategy. "The [online] service will make this kind of competitive intelligence available to smaller firms," Rivette said.
Technology enterprises began to take notice of the economic promise of intellectual property a little more than a year ago when IBM revealed it had secured several multibillion-dollar deals with competitors such as Dell, EMC Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. through aggressive review and licensing of its intellectual property portfolio.
IBMs success resulted late last year in the spinoff of Delphion Inc., a Lisle, Ill., company that provides management tools and access to a database of 40 million international patents. The company this month added a new collection of annotated patent abstracts. It is planning improvements, such as the addition of visualization, analytical and reporting tools, to its online service in May.
DuPont uses the installed enterprise version of Aurigins Aureka as part of its efforts to mine a portfolio of 17,000 patents. The tool "gives us not only access to patents online but the ability to focus on other companies that cite those patents," said Blake Bichlmeir, licensing manager for DuPonts intellectual assets business in Wilmington, Del. Bichlmeir said Aurekas Citation Tree feature results in faster, more meaningful analysis, which helps DuPont identify potentially interested clients.
Growing attention on innovation assets has also given rise to a number of online exchanges, such as yet2.com, pl-x.com and Patex.com, for the sale or transfer of intellectual property. yet2.com this week will announce plans to syndicate its online exchange to partner sites in a number of vertical markets, such as ChemFinder.com, ChemNews.com and ChipCenter.com.
Access to Aurigins AOS will cost $10,000 per month. For that, users get most of the functionality of the installed version of Aureka, including access to Aurigins databases of specially parsed international patent data housed in its centers in Cupertino, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and London.
The service represents a marked cost savings over Aureka, but while AOS also offers quicker implementation than traditional Aureka, it does come with drawbacks, including the lack of security of users local data and slower network speed, officials said.
The plan is to start smaller companies on the road to patent management with AOS, then move them up to Aureka when the effort proves profitable, according to Paul Germeraad, chief knowledge officer for Aurigin.
"The mapping and reporting features are a marked improvement over what we could do without Aurigin," AMS Kahler said. "We opted for the online service initially because there was a lower cost to get started than [with] the full enterprise installation. [Big companies] would probably opt for the enterprise installation. We may even move in that direction eventually."