Mapping Patents to Products – Why Should You Care?

26th March 2010
By Tyron Stading in Copyright & Trademark
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The business world runs on products. Profits and losses, revenue forecasts, and product offerings are all the lifeblood of a company and they’re all driven by products. It should come as no surprise, then, that you would want to protect your products with patented technology — but it turns out there is more to it than just protection.

With a patent to product mapping, you could start assigning a true value to patents. With that improved capability you have a greater capacity to maximize the return on your intellectual property investment.

That’s because you would have a better understanding of which patents are your most valuable and which have very little value. If you could tie your patents to your products the actual assessment could be performed with greater accuracy and precision, which in turn could help you:
• Understand whether or how much to prune your portfolio because you could tie it more directly to your balance sheet
• Gain insight into new licensing opportunities

• Determine how to direct future R&D investments
• Enhance your existing capability to manage protect and exploit your patents

You might not have given it much thought, but before dismissing trademarks out of hand, consider how they are used. Trademarks are used to protect naming conventions as unique and proprietary to a company or individual. Trademarks are used for 1) company names, 2) services, 3) slogans, 4) designs and logos, and 5) products and brands.

Let's say, for example, you are releasing a new product or brand and will be spending significant capital promoting and marketing it. You want to trademark that product name to ensure brand value and differentiate yourself from the competition.

You believe that it is something you think is inherently valuable, which is why you are offering it to the market and why you want to protect it from being used by others without your permission.

In fact, just as patents are technology monopolies in the market, trademarks are product/branding monopolies. From this vantage point, trademarks are an interesting approximation for products and brand names. With this understanding, the term product/brands can be thought of as a synonym for trademarks for this discussion.

By attempting to map patents to product/brands, you find a very targeted set of possibilities that enable an understanding of the relationships between intellectual property patents and the product/brands they protect.

Now that we have a patents-to-trademarks linkage there are a number of use cases that are ground breaking and innovative:
• Looking for disconnections between brand protection and Intellectual Property Protection. That is, how well are your products/brands protected by patents?
• How do I understand what patents I can leverage to protect my products?
• If I have key patent technology, what outside products/brands might result in patent infringement (e.g. not owned by the same company, branded after the date of the patent, same semantic space, etc)?
• What patents might I be infringing on in different product arenas (Freedom to Operate)?
• How do I compare two companies’ patent and product positions?
• How do I know where a new patent might be applied to a product?

An understanding of how products are related to patented technologies can help you protect, defend and exploit a much greater segment of your intellectual property. We’re no longer talking about only patents, which is the current mindset in the industry. I personally believe this represents a change in how people view their IP — that it will foster a more integrated view of IP and its business value.
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