Searching for Revenues in Bright Ideas

Research tools making patent data more accessible and understandable.

If traditional revenue sources arent yielding hoped-for results in the slowing economy, some enterprises may be surprised to find profit opportunities in existing patents. Managing intellectual property effectively can increase related revenue by 50 percent over three years, according to a recent study by Gartner Inc.

One way to eke revenues out of intellectual capital is to make the information readily available and readily understandable to more individuals within an organization. Traditionally, patents were the purview of an enterprises legal division, viewed almost solely as a way of protecting property. But today, divisions as far-flung as marketing and human resources are finding value in patent data. Personnel recruiting, for example, can be improved by identifying names of inventors listed on patents.

Two trends among IP service vendors are extending the accessibility of IP data. First, IP database providers are making research tools easier to use. Second, more database providers are moving into the IP management software business to provide sophisticated analysis and collaboration tools.

This week, Questel-Orbit Inc., an IP research services veteran in Paris, is releasing a product designed to make patent research quick and simple for all professionals within an organization. Called QPat, the service provides a history of actions affecting the legal status of every patent from the United States, European Patent Office, World Intellectual Property Organization and most European patent offices, beginning in the mid-1970s. It allows users unlimited searching via the Web for $8,000 per year.

"Weve seen a trend over the past few years where patent professionals are just inundated with searches," said David Dickens, director of the patent business at Questel-Orbit, in McLean, Va. "QPat is making it very easy for an engineer, for example, to use."

IP databases increasingly are used by enterprises not just to find hidden value in their patents but also for strategic planning. Understanding the intellectual capital—and prospective intellectual capital—of rivals can be useful in planning mergers and acquisitions. "Often, what competitors are working on this year—what theyre patenting—will show up in the marketplace next year," Dickens said. "You can see the direction your competitors are going based on what theyre patenting."

While Questel-Orbits traditional focus was the high-end niche market of IP professionals, other IP data service providers, including Information Holdings Inc.s MicroPatent division and Delphion Inc., have targeted a broader array of patent researchers.

Delphion is now moving into another segment of the IP services business with plans to deliver IPAMS (intellectual property asset management system) software early next year. "This is a new market were going after," said Delphion spokesman Rich Dobinski, in Chicago. "Well be targeting those companies that have the most IP."

Aurigin Systems Inc., in Cupertino, Calif., builds an IP software platform that includes collaboration, data mining and analysis tools integrated with patent-related content. It is available in a client/server and a hosted model. Before the end of the year, the company plans to launch a hybrid version, which will allow an enterprise to maintain its targeted data, search results and reports behind its firewall while Aurigin maintains the database indexes on its network. The hybrid is targeted at enterprises that have qualms about the hosted service but dont want to maintain the full system in-house.

"The old approach to industry was innovate or die. I would suggest that the new approach is innovate, protect and leverage," said Kevin Rivette, chairman and CEO of Aurigin.

DuPont, one of the largest holders of IP, makes patent data available to a wide variety of employees in its licensing, legal and strategic planning departments.

To organize and sort through the vast amount of intellectual property, DuPont uses IP management software from Aurigin, according to Blake Bichelmeir, licensing manager at the Wilmington, Del., company.

"It is like any other tool kit: Some people like to use the tool one way, and others like to use it another way," Bichelmeir said of Aurigins management software. "Its sort of the old saw: The more you know, the better you are."

During the past year, enterprises have demonstrated increasing interest in IPAMS software tools, which will likely be widely adopted among the pharmaceutical, aerospace, technology and biomedical industries over the next four years, according to Gartner, in Stamford, Conn. Because it costs little to license existing IP, the potential for profits is high.

Gartner recommends that enterprises test IPAMS software among a wide variety of employees, including accountants, business strategists, competitive intelligence specialists, content managers, financial analysts, fraud managers, IP researchers, journalists, lawyers, librarians, marketers, risk managers, security managers, scientists and underwriters.