4 effective methods for patent evaluation

Patents, like other forms of Intellectual property (IP), are assets with monetary value, similar to any tangible assets such as real estate. As with any other asset, a patent evaluation must consider countless legal, economical and technological issues. 

Currently there are four common methods/approaches to evaluating patents. In this article we will briefly discuss each method/approach and how to conduct it.

The Cost Method

In using the “cost method” we will try to establish what would be the cost of replacing the evaluated patent with other solutions for example developing and patenting of a similar technology, in the same countries the evaluated patent is in force. 

Establishing the development cost can be very complicated, but patenting costs is more straightforward – A status search of the evaluated patent, gives a clear picture of where and when the patent was filed and granted. Based on that information a patent attorney/agent can give a reasonable estimation of filing and maintenance fee costs.

The Market Method

Through using this method, we will try to answer one main question: What are the prices of comparable and similarly “strong” patents that were recently purchased/sold. 

The information regarding sales transactions is often confidential but using business research methods can give in many cases, a good idea of the price range. Getting information regarding the evaluated patents “strength” is much simpler – conducting an Intellectual Property (IP) Due Diligence search.

It is worth mentioning that in the case of a patent that protects a new innovative and revolutionary product/technology there is no way to base a comparison. 

The Income Method

The Income method is quite straightforward – Checking the potential future cash income generated from the patent evaluation minus the costs of purchase and maintenance. 

patent evaluation

This is done by assessing factors such as:

  • Direct income (royalties, sales, potential sales increase etc.).
  • Indirect income (savings coming from not paying licenses, saving from production costs reductions, blocking competition etc.). 
  • Costs (buying price, maintenance fees etc.). 

Many business practices are used in order to determine these factors (market analysis, sales projections, business intelligence, branding research etc.). As mentioned above patent maintenance fee costs can be easily established based upon a patent status search.

The Combined Method which is Not Financially Self Exclusive  

As can be understood from the title, this approach takes into account non-monetary aspects (such as legal status, technological assessment etc.) but it does encompass many of the economical /commercial issues discussed in the previous methods.    

Here are some of the main aspects and questions researched using this approach (some of them are nearly identical but assessed from a different angle): 

4.1. Legal aspects

Just like every other asset a patent has clear legal boundaries. When conducting a patent evaluation, it is advisable to first conduct a thorough status search to answer questions such as:

  • Whether the patent is in force i.e – it was granted and currently all maintenance fees are fully paid.
  • Remaining life of the patent.
  • What is the scope of the patents family and international protection (I.e in which countries it is in-force).

Other important legal issues to check (usually through state of the art, invalidity and freedom to operate searches) are:

  • The existence of any litigation, past or present (infringement, validity etc.).
  • Future litigation threatening the patent.
  • Patent’s validity – Prior art that might be used to invalidate it.
  • Blocking patents – Any other patent that might hinder the evaluated patent from being realized and commercialized (for example a patent protecting a technology that the evaluated patent is based on).

4.2. Business/commercial/financial aspects

These aspects include among others – 

  • Legal costs (maintenance fees, future litigation costs – such as protection from infringement suits, enforcing infringement etc.).
  • Development and production costs (prototype and product development etc.).
  • Marketing and sales costs.
  • Replacement cost (as discussed above in the “cost method” – what would be the cost of development and manufacturing the same product/technology and/or solving the same problems without using or infringing the evaluated patent).
  • Current and future income (royalties, sales, licences etc.).
  • Current and future market value (i.e past transactions of the patent, value of similar patents bought/sold in the past and present – as discussed in the market method above etc.).
  • Existence of a current and future market for the patent.
  • Exclusivity – How unique is the patent i.e how many other related patents exist.
  • Business competitors (number, size, market presence, IP portfolios etc.)

The way to establish most of the above lay mainly in the business field (Market analysis, sales projections, business intelligence etc.), however some major questions can be answered only by an Intellectual Property (IP) Due Diligence search and a Patent Landscape Report (PLR).

4.3.Technological aspects 

These aspects include among others – 

  • What is the technology’s prominence and influence (novelty, importance, scopes of technical claims, number of citations, number of products and other technology using it etc).
  • Technological exclusivity – How unique is the technology protected by the patent.
  • Mapping and assessing current and near future alternative technologies (patented and not patented).
  • Comparison to those alternative technologies.
  • Future technologies that might replace the one protected by the evaluated patent.
  • Potential synergies with other technologies (patented and not patented).

The questions arising from these aspects can also be answered by a Patent Landscape Report (PLR), an Intellectual Property (IP) Due Diligence search or by state of the art, invalidity and freedom to operate searches.

Patent evaluation – The bottom line 

Evaluating a patent is a difficult, complicated, and intricate process, involving complex patent analysis with softwares from many different angles and disciplines. The first step should always be a sound, comprehensive and professional search.