Innovative Market Research

Innovative Market Research

By Chad Stamper, Director of Technology Commercialization, Illinois Small Business Development Center


Did you know you can use patent searches to understand your competition and identify opportunities or barriers in the market place? Analyzing similar patents and relevant patent classifications can derive a lot of industry information about a given innovation. A patent class is a system that the patent office uses to code patents based on technical features. For example, patent class 165 is for Heat Exchangers.

Let’s look at an example of how to garner information from a patent search. Let’s say that I have an idea to develop a device a user will wear on their wrist, which will have sensors and a GPS chip to give that user location information in relation to what is being sensed, such as a heartbeat rate. My goal is to sell products that monitor my customer’s fitness and provide data about their activities.

By doing a patent search using databases available at the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University, I can learn which companies have patents related to my idea. From this, I can determine my competitors, the number of competitors, and the general size of the competitors. Doing a little more research, I can identify the products my competitors are offering, and if they are similar to my idea. Below is a graph that the AcclaimIP software generates to help identify competitors in my industry.

Chart of patent owners:

Using the search, I am also able to determine patent activity trends in the patent class centered on my idea. Positive trending might suggest active interest and investment in technologies related to my idea, suggesting growing market conditions. Conversely, a negative trend might mean that this area is declining in opportunity.

Number of patents and applications in the last 10 years:

Looking at classifications or semantically similar patents, I can also identify leading inventors and any universities that are filing patents similar to my idea. Using this information, I might be able to find white papers from other inventors or research and development partners at universities.

Abandonment rates can be learned as well from an AcclaimIP search. A patent is abandoned when a patent owner chooses not to pay the maintenance fees at the USPTO, which are due at years 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 after the patent grant date. Abandonment rates of ten to twenty percent are somewhat typical, although rates vary depending on the type of entity and the technology involved. High abandonment rates might suggest that the technology is no longer useful or valuable, or that my competitors are having a hard time making money from products similar to mine.

Finally, I can learn which companies are acquiring patents or technologies related to my industry sector. These companies might be good partners or possible targets for my exit strategy.

To learn how you can utilize the AcclaimIP database, contact Chad Stamper at (309)677-4432 or