SmarTech Patent Reports Provide New Insights into Corporate Strengths and Strategies


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SmarTech Analysis’ range of reports on patents in the Additive Manufacturing (AM) sector provides unique tools for better understanding the strengths and weaknesses of individual firms and going well beyond the usual techniques employed by industry analysts.  To add power to traditional approaches, used by market analysts SmarTech’s patent reports now use a special kind of patent analysis, called p-scores.  Individual patents are also given individual letter grades indicating their strength.

Specifically, SmarTech is utilizing Wisdomain’s ActionablePatents automated Patent Grading and Scoring System for quantitatively evaluating patent quality.  This approach provides insights into not just patent environments but also enables the purchasers of SmarTech’s patent reports to build competitive advantage based on a deeper understanding of the patent environment.  For example, SmarTech claims that readers of its patent reports will be able to secure IP in the 3D printed metals areas that are less populated, and also avoid patent disputes.

The Power of p-Scores

The technique embodied in SmarTech’s patent reports – generically referred to as p-Scores — uses a set of assessment criteria well known and practiced by patent economics.  The system compares a patent with hundreds, if not thousands, of patents that share the same IPC sub-classification and evaluates specific quality attributes.  Each attribute is evaluated individually to measure its unique contribution to patent quality.  Each evaluation result is then applied to a weighted scale to compute a sum weight.  The sum weight then used to arrive at the patent’s final p-score.

These patent scores are based on quantitative measures of inventors’ expertise, technological significance and endurance (number of patent citations and their duration); market scope (the number of families to which the patent belongs.  Rejected claims reduce scope); and novelty (A patent fewer backward citations suggests there is less relevant prior art) Also taken into consideration is technological focus, which is measured by continuing patent groups that cover new aspects or improvements to the subject inventions.

Using this system, the SmarTech report scores the patents for 3D printing metals, from the strongest and most valuable to the weakest. In addition, the report identifies the top assignee companies of patents and pending applications for 3D printing metals, trends in such patents and applications, patents for 3D printing metals involved in litigation, most-cited patents, top assignees and inventors based on patent scores and inventor scores, and most prolific inventors.

Based on the p-score analysis, companies can see which patents are strong and provide a competitive or litigation edge, and which patents are likely to be invalidated if they are challenged or enforced.  Such scores can also be an invaluable resource for companies enforcing or defending their patents.  For example, a company may elect not to try to enforce a patent with a quantitatively derived low score.  Conversely, a high patent score may help a company fend off a validity challenge.  Companies challenging patents may use their low scores, which are independently generated and objectively based, to help invalidate them. 

3D-Printed Metals: A Patent Landscape

It turns out that such apparently technical considerations can also provide some very powerful analytic tools, not just for pure play patent analysis, but also for better understanding how a company’s patent activities impact its overall strategy. 

For example SmarTech’s recent report, 3D Printed Metals: A Patent Landscape Analysis 2019 identifies the leading inventors in the 3D-printed metals field, who they work for, and the value of their patented inventions.  SmarTech’s patent analysis also reveals the degree to which the public corporate strategy of major firms in the 3D printing metals space is backed up (or not) by patent strategy.

One of the surprising conclusions of this report is that some of the most impressive patent portfolios are held by smaller firms. Velo3D, for example, is currently the top assignee of patents for 3D printing metals.  SmarTech’s analysis of p-Scores also shows that Desktop Metal has many quality patents.  By contrast, the more established firms are more of a mixed bag  GE’s Arcam and EOS both get high p-Scores for its U.S. patents. 3D Systems does not stand out from a patents perspective, especially when considered in terms of assignee applications.

While all of these firms are “famous” players in the AM space, SmarTech’s patent analysis also reveals important “under the radar” contributors to Metal AM.  For example, Boeing and United Technologies (UTI) are both forces to be reckoned with in the 3D printing metals space. Boeing’s 3D printing metals patents are widely cited, suggesting that the usefulness of these patents goes beyond Boeing’s internal needs.  The SmarTech’s patent work in the metals AM space also reveals some truths about Chinese metals AM.  For now, there are relatively few Chinese AM metals patents — Chengdu New Keli Chemical Science is the current leader. Also, Major players in the West are not investing in patent protection in China, since they may believe it affords them little protection.

In addition to the patent analysis itself, the report also comes with an Excel database containing 1,381 worldwide patent references for 3D printing metals and processes used to make them.  This database is a valuable resource to anyone researching the worldwide patent landscape for 3D printing metals. It enables them to determine the top cited patents in their field, how many patents are being filed each year, what patent families are already claimed and where new patent rights may be available.  SmarTech’s research covers both granted patents and published applications. The information is drawn from U.S., EP, WIPO PCT, Chinese, and Japanese sources. 

Some of the organizations covered in this report include 3D Systems, AHMR GmbH, Airbus Defence, Arcam, Arconic, Battelle Memorial Institute, Boeing, California Institute of Technology, Daido Steel, Desktop Metal, DuPuy Synthes, EOS, ExOne, GE, GM Global Technology, HC Starck, Halliburton, Hamilton Sundstrand, HP, Honeywell, Illinois Tool Works, Jiangsu Boqian New Materials, Johnson Matthey, Kennametal, MIT, Norsk Titanium, Raytheon, Ricoh, Sciaky, Siemens Energy, South China University, Texas A&M, United Technologies, University of Texas, Velo3D, Xerox, and others. Learn more here.

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