Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property

Developing a patent landscape methodology

Stuart J Smyth * and Sara McPhee-Knowles * and Andrew Baker * and Peter WB Phillips *

Keywords: barriers to innovation, freedom to operate, intellectual property, plant genomic patents, public sector research projects


Intellectual property issues span all research projects, both publicly and privately funded. As the depth and breadth of patent pools increases, freedom to operate (FTO) concerns are on the rise. Obtaining licences to intellectual property to initiate a research project is part of the challenge, but serious obstacles also arise with the commercialization of inventions. To conduct successful research projects, key pieces of intellectual property are required. In order to take research to commercialization without obstacles, it is necessary to determine freedom to operate in the early stages of a project.

As part of an FTO assessment for a Canadian research project, patent databases were searched in Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, the European Union and World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO). Searches were completed using research relevant keywords provided by researchers from the project as well as a series of other related keywords. The searches yielded a list of over 400 patents containing the search word as a keyword in the patent. In addition to this, an intellectual property expert was contracted to assist the project with this research, revealing a further 400 patents. This article provides the description of a research methodology for patent landscape analysis that was developed and utilized for a Canadian research project.

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