HAVE YOU EVER HEARD of a Patent Map? THEY ARE ABLE TO Help Predict the near future.

Success can indicate anticipating what’s coming — not only connecting the available dots, but accurately predicting where they’ll lead next.

By visually identifying hot spots for innovation and connections between industries, patent maps — graphical models offering visual representation of the areas where companies are protecting intellectual property — might help your business stay one step prior to the curve.

Joseph Hadzima is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Mass., and president of IPVision Inc., a company that delivers intellectual property analysis systems and services. The business also has developed its system for mapping patents.

“We take patent citations and map them visually, that allows us to start to see the relationships between a specific patent and the last patents it cites," he says. "When you draft a map for several patents, you begin to see patterns and trends which can help us with technology commercialization.”

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Hadzima frequently creates patent maps for smaller businesses which have received grants from the tiny Business Innovation Research, a federal program that funds technology based startups. “It’s a good way to allow them to identify who’s already in the competitive space — potential partners, customers, perhaps a company that could want to obtain their business. Or may be the area filled with competitors?” Hadzima says. “A systematic walk through these patent maps helps teams refine their whole commercialization strategy and market entry strategy."

While information regarding most US patents is public and available online, the info can be incomprehensible for all those without extensive technological knowledge. “Patent mapping we can take information that’s locked in dense documents, and present it in ways where people can begin seeing and discussing relationships,” Hadzima says. “These visualizations unlock a whole lot of previously unavailable information.”

Amy Rae, a principal at Vanedge Capital, a capital raising fund located in Vancouver, Canada that targets investments in interactive entertainment and digital media businesses, likes patent maps because of this very reason. She’s often tasked with performing homework on companies Vanedge is seriously considering buying but she does not have a technical background.

Rather than wading through block after block of cryptic, highly technical text, Rae will be able to get a synopsis of a company’s patent portfolio within an intuitive visual format, gives her a good notion of how business see itself: “Where do they think their knowledge base is? Where do they think their strengths lie, and just how do they consider growing their business?”

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Possibly the most intriguing facet of a well-drawn patent map is its predictive potential. It is possible to play detective, using intellectual property filings to anticipate what sort of particular company plans to diversify or predict an overarching trend before it breaks. For instance, when mapping patents from 2001 to 2006, Jan Youtie, a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, pointed out that Samsung had noticeably more patents in the biomedical realm than others with similar portfolios.

“That made me to wonder: what exactly are they up to?” she says. (In 2011, Samsung announced plans to go in to the biomedical business, producing drugs for cancer and arthritis patients at a plant in Seoul).

Mobile device companies can especially reap the benefits of using patent maps, Hadzima says, but so can capital raising firms, investment banks and businesses in the hardware, software, materials and biotech space.

At IPVision’s website, see-the-forest.com, users can create individual patent landscape maps, which show the citation references to and from an individual patent), along with patent interconnection maps for 100 patents.The opportunity to create more technical maps, along with usage of additional analytic tools, is designed for a $250 monthly subscription fee. Larger projects can cost anywhere up to $100,000.

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