R&D Investment Management and IP Landscape Assessment


IP landscape

IP Landscape heath map showing areas of investment and innovation

Any investment in R&D has its risks, but without innovation, companies and industries can not continue to grow and survive. Many innovations begin with simple discussions in the tearoom with colleagues about new ideas and concepts that solve an existing problem or create new more effective ways of going things. These ideas may evolve from existing technologies and products or be completely new.

In many cases other organisations are either working on similar ideas or have developed protection around such ideas so as to secure their business from competition. It is for these reasons that before committing R&D funds into any idea it is important to understand the potential competitive landscape that may already exists or evolve in the future around the idea.

Two primary types of IP searches may be undertaken through the life of a project or invention. These are

  • Patent Landscape Assessment (PLA) and  
  • Freedom to Operate (FTO) assessment.

IP Landscape Assessment (PLA)

IP landscape assessments can be used to understand the competitive environment, if any, which may exist over any new products or processes, before any investments are made and throughout the initial development period.

A patent landscape assessment differs for a FTO report by analysing innovation patterns and patenting trends in a specific technological field or geographical area using patent information. Such reports can provide an assessment of the patent portfolio covering the area of the proposed research.

A patent landscape search may be completed at two levels. These are:

  1. A Subject Matter Search –The aim is to identify documents (literature and patents) in a general research or technology area. These searches better inform researchers and investment partners of the degree of past activity in the proposed area of research.
  2. A Patentability Search – The aim is to identify documents specific to the invention or intended IP outcome. These are often referred to as a novelty search. They assist researchers refine their program to specific solutions that are not addressed within existing patents. They may also help identify technologies that were previously protected by patents but may now be freely used in developing new products

Freedom to Operate Assessment (FTO)

A freedom to operate search is specific to an idea and concept.  In many cases it can not be completed until the final products or processes are developed. An FTO search is conducted to identify potential barriers to commercialisation in the relevant territories by looking specifically at the claims of existing patents or patent applications. This can lead to patent watches being placed on relevant external party applications and potential oppositions being filed. FTO search reports generally require analysis by appropriate patent attorneys.

It is important to conduct an FTO search prior to lodging a patent application. Such searches allow R&D teams to consider new approaches that are less likely to infringe the rights of a third party.

Business managers may use an IPA or FTO search to identify future commercial partners or to better understand where competing companies are investing.  Commercial partners will also complete an FTO search prior to entering into any agreement to acquire rights to a technology.

Trademark Searches

Most businesses market their products under a specific brand or logo. Before deciding on the brand, completing a trademark search is essential. Such searches help identify how a proposed brand may be similar to others used in the market. Brands that are similar to pre-existing marks may be refused from registration or face challenges from competing businesses.  If you would like more help with your brand or developing our brand work with our partner company IP Active – specialising in Trade Marks and Branding.

TechMAC specialises in working with R&D teams and managers in understanding the IP risks of a proposed investment in R&D. Completing IP landscape and FTO assessment, in conjunction with our attorney partners, and trademark searches is a key part of the services provided by TechMAC.   

If you would like to discuss IP Landscape Assessments further, contact us today.