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The Ins and Outs of Patents and Intellectual Property – The Six Five Insiders Edition
by Daniel Newman | September 15, 2020

On this special episode of The Six Five – Insiders Edition, hosts Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman are joined by Will Mansfield, Director of Consulting and Customer Success for PatentSight to discuss the ins and outs of patents, intellectual property and the value of patent data in our current technology climate.

In our conversation, Will, Patrick and I explored PatentSight’s Patent Asset Index, which is the scientifically developed tool the company uses to evaluate the value of a patent. Companies today need to be able to explain the value of an asset or a piece of technology or why you’re going after a certain company for an acquisition. Will explained that the Patent Asset Index is an algorithm that looks at number of factors when deciding the value of a patent including the patent portfolio, patent family, geocoverage, and citations among other things. It’s a wealth of data that PatentSight’s clients can leverage for portfolio management and licensing information.

A quick look at patent families. Will shared a brief overview of how PatentSight views patent families. There are multiple definitions of this, but PatentSight looks at patents with the exactly the same set of priorities. As the company evaluates a patent it’s important to first group all the patents together covering a single innovation to truly get a full picture on what the patent is covering.

The importance of geocoverage in patents. Will explained that geocoverage of patents is all of the locations where a patent exists. Companies that believe their innovation or technology is a gamechanger will likely have patents everywhere. Understanding this gives an indication of the strength of the patent.

Patent citations make important links. We also discussed how PatentSight utilizes patent citations which are connections between patents to indicate the relevance of the patent. Just like in the PageRank system in Google — the more links a page has to it, the more valuable it is. PatentSight uses the links from expert examiners and creates metrics to evaluate the strength.

Understanding the value of patents that build on each other. Finally, we explored how patents, specifically in 5G, build on each other. Companies like Qualcomm that develop 5G or other similar technologies are building off of 3G and 4G iterations. It’s not a completely new technology. PatentSight’s technology relevance metric in the Patent Asset Index highlights patents that are heavily built upon other patents. This is important in determining the value of the patent.

If you’d like to read more about PatentSight and their Patent Asset Index, be sure to check out their website or listen to the full episode below. While you’re at it, be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode of The Six Five Podcast.

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Disclaimer: The Six Five Insiders Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

Image Credit: PatentSight

Transcript: 

Patrick Moorhead: I’m Patrick Moorhead with Moor Insights & Strategy and I am joined by my co-host Daniel Newman, Founder, CEO, President, and Chief Poobah of Futurum Research. But before I introduce today’s guest, I do need to say hi to my friend, Daniel. Daniel, how are you?

Daniel Newman: Patrick, good morning. Obviously everybody that listens to our audience, and by the way we appreciate all of, know we record these in advance but don’t always realize just how hard we work to make sure that you’re getting the best content. This morning is Labor Day and we are really excited because we have the chance to have a very interesting guest from overseas where they’re not celebrating the U.S. Labor Day holiday. And Pat as busy as we are trying to create these shows and content and write and analyze and advise our clients, it was a great morning. So it’s the morning of Labor Day and we are recording a podcast on something that we find extraordinarily interesting. And so, I am really excited to be here. Of course, we probably need to tell them our little disclaimer before we bring our guest on.

Patrick Moorhead: Sure. Do not use this podcast for investment advice, do the opposite of what we say. In fact, this is for entertainment and educational purposes only. So, let’s dive in here and before I introduce our esteem guest, I want to do a little bit of background here. So, we’re going to be talking about patents and how patents are a incredible tool to protect IP and drive innovation. Both Daniel and I, if you’ve read anything we’ve written, we’re really into patents. And even though I was the one child who didn’t go to law school and become a lawyer and become a patent lawyer, I still find them to be incredibly useful.

So we’ve seen countless articles on who’s the most innovative? Who’s winning in the tech circle on the number of patents? And that’s been definitely true, particularly around 5G. We don’t think that just counting patents is the best way to measure this and we’ve said many times talk about the value of it. Thankfully, there are companies who do this and I am happy to have with us Will Mansfield, who’s head of consulting and customer success of one of the leading companies in this area, PatentSight. Welcome.

Will Mansfield: Hi guys. Thanks.

Daniel Newman: Hey Will, thanks for joining us today. It’s great to have you appreciate you on this Monday morning. And again…

Patrick Moorhead: Afternoon his time.

Daniel Newman: Monday, Pat.

Will Mansfield: Sorry to get you guys out of bed on Labor Day as well.

Daniel Newman: Pat, you know we’re American we don’t remember things like that. I’m kidding, having a little fun. No, it’s a great discussion Pat and you teed it up really nicely and it’s good to get Will here. Because this discussion does go on. I love seeing these listicles that come out on things like LinkedIn that, these are the 50 most innovative companies on the planet. And it’s something as simple as maybe R&D spend, or number of patents issued, or sometimes you don’t even know what the basis is because there’s no formula for it. So, you really have to hope there’s people out there. And Will we’re going to be hitting you up asking you questions because we know you’re in this business, but how about before we hit you up and ask you questions, let’s set up a little credibility for you there. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company PatentSight.

Will Mansfield: Yeah, sure. So myself, as you said, I’m a Head of the Consulting and Customer Success team. So PatentSight, we started as a consultancy offering patent analytical services using our algorithm and our data set for companies particularly in Germany, where we are based to start with. And we’ve actively grown from that into being a data provider and having a software tool that allows people to analyze this information themselves. And our customers include top companies from around the world, Forbes, 500 companies, the DAX leaders as well.

And myself, I’ve been with the company about three years now, and prior to this I did a lot of R&D strategy for a module and cell solar PV manufacturer. And in this kind of setting, I think patent analytics would have been so helpful to have the insight coming from this. And it’s such a wealth of information there that we can leverage for not just our own portfolio management and licensing information, but also what other companies are doing. Are we being competitive? What are they going to bring to market? And what are we bringing to market? And how do those compare with one another? So, it’s a really interesting data set.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s good, it’s real. You had real world experience, so like Daniel and I before we got into the advisory consultant business, it’s always good to have. Tribes my contemporary’s insane when I said, “Yeah, I used to have a real job too.” I mean, consulting and advisory and being an analyst is a real job, but man, it’s trying to hit dates and managing a thousand people is tough. So I think we both agree, I’ve read what you’ve written and I’ve looked at your statistics and I think we do agree that quality is important when it comes to a patent portfolio. And I’m sure you’re not just making up the number or making up the value I mean, this is the business that you’re in. And maybe you could share with the audience a little bit about your methodology, where it’s published. Do you have a magic equation that you use? And maybe because it’s so top of mind put it in terms of the context of 5G and wireless.

Will Mansfield: Sure. The company was started around this metric system, the Patent Asset Index. It came out of the scientific research that the founder of the company did, so it’s scientifically developed method looking for what are the factors? What is the metadata that we can use to best assess the value of a patent? And we can go into a lot of detail about that, but maybe for another time, but suffice to say it’s the number of citations a patent receives and how broadly it is protected that really drives the indicators. And that’s what came out of the scientific research. And then this was developed into the algorithm that we use, the Patent Asset Index, which is also published in a peer reviewed journal.

And that’s really important that the information is not just a black box, it’s not just what we think from one day to another, it’s not going to change, its validated and consistent. So, you get an objective view on what is the value of any particular asset. And that becomes really important not just for say you explaining to your CTO or your CEO, why we’re in a particular area or why we’re going after a particular technology, but other users of the platform like the EU Commission. Who are using it for the assessment of mergers and acquisitions and the impact that that’s going to have on the innovation landscape. And they’ve used it to make decisions and make companies divest parts of their business based on that.

And they need to be able to stand in front of a judge and show them the details and show them the research and there’d be no shadow of a doubt that they’re making the right decision about this. And if we look at that towards say 5G, like you say, there are huge number of patents particularly coming from China in general. And there’s just massive numbers out there. I mean, IBM being the company that always wanted to be the number one filer in the U.S. PTO this is a kind of not ideal target, right? We need a better valuation than just this. And if we look at the 5G landscape we’ve done a lot of publications around this, so the charts are out there. You can see that say players like Hallway clearly have the largest number of patents that are declared as standard essential that are active today. That think there is no question around this, but that’s not to say that every one of them is seminal in nature.

Not every one of them is going to be the most critical innovation. And they’re just filing everything and trying to get as many of them into the standards as possible. And there are other companies, in our analysis previously, that had the highest quality of the 10 that we… The top 10 was InterDigital for example, who have a much smaller portfolio but they’re licensing out everything. Every single one of those assets needs to be valuable enough to make someone else pay for access to the technology. They need to have the highest quality in order to do that, but they don’t need a large portfolio to necessarily do that.

And then there are the actual leader in that analysis by some way was Qualcomm who have a kind of in between state of this. They have a really strong portfolio that they’ve had and developed for a long period of time and they’ve built that out in terms of the numbers. So, it’s not just if you have one very high quality patent, well that’s super, but that’s not a great strategy either. And if you have thousands of low quality patents, well that’s again, you’re just spending money on something that isn’t necessarily bringing you value. We need to have a combination of these. We need to have a reasonable number of high quality assets in order to leverage them effectively in the market.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, that’s really interesting Will. Made me think of yesterday I was out with my teenage daughter, I took her to the driving range. I haven’t golfed in a long time and she hasn’t ever played golf and she was swinging a wedge and I told her I said, “You know the more swings you take, doesn’t make you a better golfer if you have no idea how you’re swinging? She’s just hacking at the ball. And I guess I liken that to how you’re talking about volume, right? Volume of practice, of a bad practice, is still bad. And so of course when you say low value patents, some of them may have some intrinsic value, but the point is, as you’re trying to measure this it’s quality and quantity is going to be really important in terms of driving the value that you’re talking about. This equation that you’re talking about.

You know, I’ve got a multipronged question for you, so I’m going to ask it, I’m going to try to give you all the parts, but I might have to come back and remind you because it kind of is a few parts. I want to talk about patent families here. I want to also talk about citations and I want to talk about geo coverage. So I want to talk about those three things, but I want to start off because you hear the term patent family. I know what it is, but I want you to answer it because you’re going to do a better job than I would. Tell everybody out there, what is a patent family?

Will Mansfield: In itself that doesn’t have one answer, right? So, we need to look at what makes sense. I mean we could count, when we talk about patents, we could count individual documents there are, we could talk about individual legal rights, or we can talk about some amalgamation of that. And that goes into say maybe multiple rights within a country covering basically or a very similar invention, or we could talk about the geographical coverage of that. And that’s really what we’re aiming to do with the simple patent family that we typically work by. With the Patent Asset Index we’re really interested in what is the technological strength of this innovation? So when you say a quality patent, you might mean quality from the point of view of legal strength, how strongly worded are the claims? How well will it stand up against a judge? And that’s not what I mean. I mean, the technological strength of the innovation and how relevant it has been.

And when we’re talking on that level, then we need to group the legal rights together so that they represent a single invention. So obviously with patents, we need to protect in multiple authorities or people normally do wants to protect in multiple authorities. And so we need to go to each one of those and file a patent at each of them and get the legal right in each of those countries where we want protection. And before we start to do analysis on what is the value of that patent? We want to group that together into a set of patents covering a single innovation. And with PatentSight we’re using the European Patent Office’s simple patent family definition, for those who understand this it’s that the patents have exactly the same set of priorities, but of course there are other definitions.

Some people will use the broader input definition where you have any shared priorities but you can then end up with these kind of daisy chained massive patent families that cover a wide variety of technologies. And we typically use this example of this Google patent where they have a smart doorbell and they have a smart fire alarm and they have a smart security system and then they have a smart house. And all of these are the same INPADOC family because they all relate to one another, but you wouldn’t really conclude the doorbell with the fire alarm necessarily if you’re really thinking about what is a single innovation. And so, we want to do that to start with before we look at what is the technological strength of the innovation that we’re talking about.

Daniel Newman: By the way Pat, I was right. He did a better job answering that question than I could have done. The first 30 seconds that you and I were running on the same race, but then it was like you were [inaudible] running. So then, let’s hit on those two other things because you alluded to them actually. As you were explaining the family you alluded to the citation and the geo coverage because you were talking about that a little bit. But just touch on those two things so that people out there really understand the role of the citation and then the role of geo coveraging.

Will Mansfield: Well I mean, maybe we start with the geo coverage of this as we touched on it already. Like I mentioned, you need to go to each of these different countries in order to protect the patent there, so we want to be able to measure that. Well, one thing it gives an indication of what the applicant originally thought the patent might be worth, right? If I have the game changing 5G patent, if I have the most innovative patent I’m going to go to every single country I can go to get protection, right? I want to leverage that innovation everywhere.

Whereas if I’m protecting it because I know the inventor and I work with him and I just want to file it somewhere, then I’m just going to go to the local patent office and protect it there.

So, it gives us an indication of what the applicant expected the strength of the patent to be. And likewise that they maintain that protection over time is also an indication of their continued commitment to that innovation, so it gives us a strong indication. I mean from a commercial standpoint as well, in order for us to effectively leverage that in any given authority, then we need to have it protected there, so this is also indicating to us the protected market, like where can we leverage this innovation as well? And so looking at it from that point of view, you don’t just want to count countries, you don’t want to count the Netherlands and Belgium and Finland and call it three. And then count the U.S. Japan and China and call it three and say, “That’s even.” You really want to say, “Okay, what is the market potential for my innovation?”

So we typically use a gross national income, the size of the country’s economies, the GNI, in order to weight that and say, “Okay, we benchmark against the U.S. so we give the U.S. a value of one, China the value of 0.6, because the GNI is about 60% of the U.S.” So in terms of geographical coverage, that is what we do. And in terms of the citation information, I mean, this is a really powerful insight that we have with this. I mean, it’s not just relevant for patents. So, patents are making citations primarily through search reports that the examiners are writing typically, and so these are experts in the field making a link between one patent and a another. So it’s not just anyone making these to start with.

And the importance of that information is not just for patents as well, so it’s I think originally from scientific literature, the citations between the documents indicating the relevance of those documents. And as well the PageRank system that Google use to run their search engine uses a similar premise. It’s the hyperlinks between the pages that denote the relevance of any particular page, if it has more links it’s probably more relevant. And then this is true for patents also. But in patents, like I say, we’ve got these experts, the patent examiners, who are normally really expert in their field. So if we took the example of say someone at the EPO looking at prosthetics, they will focus on for years just not prosthetics, but one particular area, like lower leg prosthetics or something like this.

So they really know the area that there in and that they’re choosing the, okay, based on me having read the claims, having understood the patent, when it’s come in these are the other patents that are relevant, were required in order for this innovation to come to be. So, they really are experts making these links. And so it’s almost like a crowdsourcing the reading of all of these patents and then collecting the information about what people thought about how important they were and then turning that into our metrics around this. So, it’s not just using this information that’s floating around if we look at where that’s coming from, it’s really coming from a strong source as well.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s great. I think hoping that everybody on the video or listening to the podcast can understand that basically you contemplate citations, which are companies including other companies prior art into their patent. You also factor in their geo coverage in the value based on your formula of gross national product and then patent families versus patent, you are great on the curve for those. A lot of the examples that you gave point out, at least in one way, that different patent offices do things a little different out there as you would expect. Do you take those differences into account aside from, let’s say, geo coverage? And I know there’s a little bit of a patent family in there when it comes to China. And maybe we can talk a little bit about how that relates to 5G.

Will Mansfield: Yeah. I mean, we do take into account the impact of the different patent offices as well. So within that citation calculation that we do, different patent offices have different citation practices. So, the U.S. typically makes many more citations, the EPO makes fewer, so we do take this into account in the calculation as well. We take into account the age of the patent, so obviously patents don’t lose citations over time they only accumulate them. So, an older patent is likely to have more than a younger one. And also the technology field that a patent is in, some areas of technology are very heavy in citations where others are less.

And in order to have an objective way of doing this, we take an average for a patent’s peer group and we compare the patent to the average for its peer group. So we say, “This patent has I don’t know, five citations, how many does an average patent of the same age, the same technology, the same patent office have?” And divide by that average. So, if we see a patent with, in this case, the citation metric is called technology relevance, if we see a patent with a technology relevance of two we already know it’s twice as relevant as its peer group. So straight away, we start to get information about how important this innovation has been.

And the average then by doing that is one, by a method of the calculation, by dividing by the average all the time, you get an average for the set of one. So, we think about 5G I think we said lower quality patents but I think that the average that these companies have even Hallway with many more patents than the others. I think they have an average competitive impact, the quality metric of about two, so about twice the average for the Fitabase. Whereas Qualcomm is I believe something around seven and InterDigital highest still 11, 12 something like this. So multiple times the average for the database. So these are already very strong rates, but it’s a relative thing, how strong are they compared to their peers in this case?

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s fascinating. And obviously it’s important that you have a third party unbiased group that’s looking at this stuff to help the market better understand how things should be valued. As you see in this space, litigation and debate and dispute, regulation, compliant all these things become very visible as companies are competing. Because there’s so much power in these patents and in controlling or having a sphere of influence over the directions, especially with technologies that are they’re essential to our world. And think about with COVID-19 and how essential connectivity has been and think about faster and more powerful communications connectivity, and what impact that’s going to have on our world going forward.

So you can see there’s a lot of companies right now that all want to say, “We are the 5G company. We are building the future.” And we need this to be managed, we need someone to say objectively with a lot of data, that these are the companies truly driving this to try to offset some of the marketing claims and actually add back some real value to the reader and to at least to us academic thinkers, academic and pragmatic, I would say. So, you alluded to this one is as well Will, and by the way, thanks for all your great insights here.

We’re wrapping up here, we probably have a couple more questions for you, but I want to talk about that technology standpoint for just a minute and how things build. So, 5G is basically a continued carry over of the 3G and 4G, you see new releases come out and they’re all building on one another. But you’d say that 3G and 4G have a lot of foundational contributions to 5G. How does that get taken into consideration when looking at the value of 5G standard essential patents?

Will Mansfield: Yeah. I mean, you’re totally right. This is something that is building on one another. It’s not a completely new system that we’re suddenly coming up with it’s that things have been deployed and there’s technology that’s very well developed and we’re building on that further with the later innovations, right? So, this is an important factor within telecommunications and is in with other fields as well, right? So it can be that something is completely new and completely unique, but I mean, many things build over time like this. And the citation information that we use there really helps us uncover those things, right?

So we can, through the citation, say, “Okay. This is something that really was seminal in nature. This is something that all this other technology space has basically grown because of this, maybe one innovation.” And this happens all the time, right? So, it’s really important to identify those versus something that is just another innovation on the tree, another small branch or another twig at the end. And this is typically not very easy to do when you’re just looking at the patents themselves. I mean, you can go and comb through the details of the claims. If you look at what is declared as standard essential it’s not very easy to do on its own we need a way of measuring that.

And the technology relevance metric that we use in the Patent Asset Index does a really good job of bringing up and highlighting those patents that are being heavily built upon. Whether it’s that they were built upon continuously over time, or they’re very new and already being heavily built upon because of the age correction that we do. It highlights these even if it’s years old or maybe a year old, something like this.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s good. So, you get this primarily through other citations, right? If you’re doing a 5G patent you’re likely going to cite somebody else’s 4G or 3G patent. Let’s move into the final question here. So William as I talked about, I like to say I had a real job before I became an analyst, and part of that, I saw a lot of benchmarketing going on. And whether it was trying to optimize for a quadrant, whether it was trying to optimize for a certain performance benchmark or battery benchmark at some point… And by the way this could to be a good thing if you get manufacturers moving in that direction.

And I’m not trying to pick on Walway, but I also have a lot of ties into the Linux Foundation where the amount of additions they became the number one Linux provider. But it was, you get credit for an addition regardless of the size or value and why we became the number one in about three years, but not necessarily the fundamental pennant. How do you keep vendors from gaining your system? And what are some things in the future that you’re looking at without, hey, if you want to give us your future secrets you can but don’t feel like you have to.

Will Mansfield: Yeah. So I mean, in terms of gaming the system there’s a limited amount of power that any individual company can exert the Patent Asset Index methodology, right? I mean, I as Hallway could cites my entire back catalog of patents in every following patent, as an applicant I could do this. But we’ve run this analysis, we took some German players for this back in the day of looking at, okay, what if Siemens cited their entire back catalog of patents up until the point of that patent being filed in every single application. And yeah, it pushes the needle a little bit, but on the scale of 0.1 overall. And when we told you the average was one and these players have values of two, three, to 11, it’s pretty negligible on that scale.

So we can move the needle a little, but we only have so many patents that we have access to then push versus the wealth of everything that is out there. Particularly as 5G patents aren’t just being cited by subsequent 5G innovations, they’re being cited by maybe other technology fields as well as those technologies build upon or implement the technology. Because 5G is going to realize so many other innovations that there’s many other patents that are building on it beyond just telecommunications one.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. It’s going to be really fun to watch how this plays out as intellectual property continues to become more competitive. The world as a whole, Will, starts to essentially continue to get smaller as technology continues to be more influential. But basically Will, I want to thank you for spending about 30 minutes with us, letting us just hammer you on the world of IP and patents. I think right now as we all are embracing technology, it’s really interesting to know what happens in the back room. How this really comes and how sometimes the companies that get a lot of credit for innovation, aren’t always the companies that are actually doing the innovation.

And some of the most interesting companies on the planet are building systems, technologies, intellectual property that gets used by companies. I often think about Apple, they just so effectively deploys patents into technology that becomes the friends of the consumer, becomes friendly to the consumer. So thanks a lot Will. Any last thoughts before we boot you off the stream?

Will Mansfield: I mean, I really want to illustrate that this information is really helpful for everyone, right? I mean, not just IP teams who are managing their portfolio but the business strategists, we talked to a lot of financial institutions these days. And really, I would say our goal as a company is to put the information in the hands of everyday business people who are able to use the information to their advantage.

Because there’s no other window like patents that give us that kind of insight into what other companies are doing. So it’s really important, and we want to democratize it and make it easy for people to understand and let them get the value out of it.

Daniel Newman: Well, thanks for all the work you do. I’m going to punch it to the green room and then Pat and I are going to take the show home. So thanks again Will.

Patrick Moorhead: Wow. That was awesome.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. That’s super interesting Pat, and I really enjoy that. I mean, you and I we talk about with those tech companies that are essentially building all kinds of tools and tech and toys and gadgets that we use and embrace, but there’s so much behind that that really makes all that possible.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. And I’m glad that there are companies like PatentSight out there, like you mentioned. And I like their methodology and I liked Will’s response to gaming the system. I mean, I’ve seen people run up the score, heck I used to work for a company who ran up the score. IBM was number one and AMD was number two. So played that game, we benchmarketed that. And a new CEO came in and who decided, “Hey, that’s not the metric we’re going after and we’re not going to do that anymore.” And I liked his answers about Walway and listen, Walway’s just playing in the system, right? And they’re smart, right? When they saw a number of patents that some people are doing, they’re going to run up the patent score. At the Linux Foundation the amount of contributions was the amount of contribution, so they ran up that score. I mean, they’re a smart company and again, there are other companies who do that not picking on them, but good stuff.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Absolutely Pat. So well, for everybody that tuned in with us we really do appreciate you spending time with us here at The Six Five. Hit that subscribe button. We appreciate you. You know we’ve got our weekly show where we cover the six topics deep analysis. But we also have many of these insider additions and as you can see CEOs, presidents, senior executives, we’re talking about complex technology topics. And we’re also hearing from some of the world’s leaders across industries. But for this episode, Pat, we’ve got to say goodbye for now. But thank you all for tuning in, we will see you all very soon. But for now bye-bye.

 

 

Daniel Newman