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Prediction as a service: The Future Triangle Framework can help you correctly predict future

What if I tell you I can help you predict the future? Most people might come to you and say that analytics can help you achieve exactly that.

Reality is – it cannot.

Where we are right now i.e. Present, is a result of the compounding of the decisions we have made till now.

Similarly, the future is going to be highly dependent on the decision making we are going to do right now in context with what is happening around us.

Now the problem is we all are not very good at decision making. We are not taught this in school.

So before we talk about prediction, let me tell you a small thing about Decision making.

Decision making is basically a simple 4 step process that goes in our mind –

  1. Gathering of information
  2. Thinking of solutions based on the limited information we have
  3. Think of consequences (for yourself and for others)
  4. Make a Choice (do you need to ask for help)

The problem is in #1 and #2. Most of the people do not expand their source of information and probable solutions that may exist. This highly limits our decision making power.

Therefore anything that can help in increasing the number of signals would definitely help you foresee the future.

So here we thought to talk about a framework that can help in our decision making power. 

If you run a multi-million dollar company, it is imperative that you be at the top of things. You need to know what is going to happen in your field, what competitors might be bringing to the market, which innovation is going to disrupt the domain, and so on.

The Future Triangle Framework for future prediction

According to the framework, any wise prediction and how we reach to it must stand firm on three verticals:

It should be goal-aligned.

This implies that the prediction should define what we want to foresee. It would either be the next product that a company is going to launch, or another acquisition or collaboration that the industry is going to witness, or the next domain that is going to be disrupted and so on.

This would answer: What do we want?

It should be based on logic.

This implies that the prediction should not be based merely on a hunch or a gut feeling. Rather, it should be backed by strong logic.

This would answer: Is it possible to reach the prediction based on defined parameters?

It should have a proof-of-concept (POC).

This implies that there should be a realizable proof-of-concept that can prove why the prediction will come true in the future. Perhaps some previous use-cases that help in substantiating the reason behind the prediction.

This would answer: How is the prediction realizable?

These three rules of thumb can be set up around the edges of a Future Triangle (as shown below):

Now, time to put this framework to test.

So, going by our Future Triangle, the first and foremost thing we have to do is decide on a GOAL. For this test, we will pick this goal –

How can you predict which patents (i.e. technologies) of your competitor are going to appear in their products?

Before we move to the other pillars and try to actually predict the future, let’s talk about why it is important and moreover difficult to predict this.

Why is it important: This much is obvious. If you are, say  Apple, you must know which patents filed by Google reveal their vision of the future.

Why is it difficult: A lot of your competitors might be filing a good number of patents every month or every year. Even though you might have an Intellectual Property team, at times it can be difficult for them to sieve through those patents, connect the dots technology-wise and uncover where the competitor is heading, and what they are going to add to their flagship products.

Take the Apple-Google scenario itself. Say, you are a counsel from Apple. Your team analyses 100 recent patents filed by Google and comes up with a list of 10 new products/features that Google is going to launch in the near future. But wait, is this prediction wise?

If Google has filed 5K patents in a couple of years, are you going to take all them into account and decide to keep an eye out for all 500 products/features that you are getting out of them? Here for the sake of sanity, we assumed that 1 product/feature is covered by 10 patents. But in reality, the scenario is much complex. Sometimes, even 1 patent can cover multiple products/features.

Anyhow, the point is: Unless you can be certain, a prediction like this is not much useful.

This is where the future triangle framework can help, factoring in certainty. Now we will shift our focus to the other two pillars. So, we are going to list numerous logic-based criteria aligned with our goal. And lastly, for the POC, we are going to look at some use-cases picked out from history to prove our point.

If the patent has been filed by the Head of R&D or a CXO.

Goal Logic Proof of Concept
To identify valuable patents that will appear in products via assessment of inventors If a patent is filed by the R&D head of the company or a Chief Officer, this makes it much more feasible that the patent would be converted to a product. An example of this is the iconic Netflix envelope. It is considered one of the company’s important yet simple innovations — the proprietary design of a DVD envelope that allowed safe and cost-effective shipping. Patent records show that Reed Hastings, co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Netflix, was a co-inventor of the envelop design. The early versions of the Netflix envelope are defined by Patent No. 6,966,484. More recent versions are covered by Patent No. 7,401,727. (Source)

On a side note, research has proven the following about cases when patents are filed by CEOs:

Within Inventor CEO-led firms, patents filed in technology classes aligned with the CEO’s experience are on average worth $10.6 million more than patents in other technology classes. These patents are also significantly more likely to be cited in the 99th percentile of the citation distribution within their technology class-year… Almost half of all Inventor CEOs continue to file patents in their own name during their tenure as CEO.” (Source)

If the patent has been filed via accelerated filing process in the Patent office

Goal Logic Proof of Concept
To identify valuable patents that will appear in products via looking into prosecution proceedings. If the patent has been filed through a program of expedited or accelerated filing, the company might be trying to protect and launch the tech in the market soon. Trait Biosciences had been quite in the news for their technology of making water-soluble cannabinoids while popularizing its patent-pending technology on its website for a long time. It comes as almost no surprise that they had filed for the patent through expedited filing (TrackOne here) and got it granted within a year. (Source; Patent No. 10,378,020). Specifically, this patent had been filed on August 23, 2018, and got allowed on August 13, 2019 — 10 days under a year.

 

About the resultant technologies, interestingly, they were already discussing them since the end of 2018. Back then, they had strategized to get related patents “in a few months”, so that they could block the other players who were trying to achieve similar results (Source). Finally, they unveiled them in June 2019, a couple of months before getting the patents granted (Source).

 

This indicates that while the expeditiously filed patent was nearing the end of prosecution, they were all set with the techs to be launched.

To get a perspective, let’s compare this timeline to GW Pharma’s cannabinoid-based drug for a particular brain tumor. The US patent application was filed in 2009. It got granted in 2014 (Patent No. 8,632,825). Thereafter, the company laid out results from the conducted tests further on in 2017, three years after the grant (Source).

If the patent cites patents filed by the same company. Or simply, self-citations.

Goal Logic Proof of Concept
To identify valuable patents that will appear in products through citation analysis. If, for a patent, the company has cited a number of its own patents (self-citations), this might mean that they are building and dedicatedly developing a product of their own. This might hint that the patent would be converted to a product or a realizable feature in the near future. Amazon Kindle is an exceptional example of being backed by numerous self-citations. There are utility patents that cite other utility patents and designs; and designs that cite so many other designs.

 

To give away a few instances, Amazon’s Patent No 8,950,682 (on handheld electronic book reader with dual displays) cited another one 8,018,431 (on page-turner for a similar device) and another 8,413,904 (on its keyboard layout), all by Amazon. Not only that, but the former invention also cited a number of design patents showing a similar device. For example, USD585902S1, USD586803S1, and USD591741S1.

 

Thus, Amazon’s one patent citing so many of its own clearly stated that they were building such a product. Also, all of these have been filed in 2006, while the first e-reader by Amazon was released on the shelves in November 2007.

Kindle’s imminent massive success is not unknown. In fact, it sold out in 5 and  1/2 hours! The point is: had such stats been public at the time, the competitors would have already known that Amazon was planning something HUGE here.

If the patent is a Continuation

Goal Logic Proof of Concept
To identify valuable patents that will appear in products by analysing family members. If the patent is a continuation, that makes the patent much more likely to be realized in one of the products that the company is building. The feature that lets you share your Netflix account with your friends is backed by a patent and at least one continuation. (Specifically, Patent No. 7,958,529 is a continuation of Patent No. 7,631,323).

 

Also, the notorious feature of Netflix that would have let you control the speed of playback is also backed by a patent and at least one continuation. (Here, Patent No. 9,781,183 is a continuation of Patent No. 8,891,946).

This strategy often results in a patent thicket: a cluster of patents revolving around one big invention. And this has been used by companies with the thought of creating a monopoly in that space.

Also, here are the comments of renowned patent attorney Gene Quinn: “Continuations are filed many times not because the examination process has been somehow inefficient or non-conclusive, but rather because the underlying property is so valuable the owner wishes to have a patent portfolio rather than a single patent. Sometimes, with foundational important or pioneering innovations, there will be many patents issuing from the same parent application.” (Source)

If there is any Design patent filed related to the filed Utility Patent

Goal Logic Proof of Concept
To identify valuable patents that will appear in products via the analysis of similar inventions by looking into designs. Filing utility patents and designs is pretty usual. These might or might not give way to a tangible product or design in the future. However, if a company discloses an invention and also files a related design, it strongly hints that both the filings are pieces of the same puzzle. And, that they would be turned into a product sooner or later. This was quite evident from the case of FitBit.

 

Look at this: One of its early patents 9,110,498 around a carrying case for a biometric monitoring device was filed in September of ’13.

Further, a design (USD720249S1) with drawings similar to the invention and title “Wristband case” was filed in the very next month, i.e. October of ’13.

In fact, coincidentally, or not, both the inventions had 3 common inventors! All of this backs it up enough that there was going to be such a case for their device, and it is!

If there is any Trademark filed related to the filed utility patent

Goal Logic Proof of Concept
To identify valuable patents that will appear in products by looking into trademarks. Locating such a trademark whose description resonates with one or more of the company’s patent filings, might indicate that both are together going to build a future product. That is, both the filings can be called strategic, and that the company is going to bring out a product in that direction. An example? Apple’s iconic FACE ID.

 

The company had been filing patents on “Locking and unlocking a mobile device using facial recognition” for a long time. For example, Patent No. 8,994,499, which was filed in 2011 and got allowed in 2015.

 

Further on, Apple filed for a trademark by the name “FACE ID” in early 2017 (Source).

 

Thereafter, it released the feature with the iPhone X toward the end of 2017. So, that’s a pretty straightforward timeline, yes?!

 Well, companies often file marks to have exclusive rights to the brand name that they aim to build. In fact, some giants like Apple are so strategic about filing trademarks and hiding them from competitors, that they file these marks in countries that don’t have online searchable databases! So, nobody, nobody can know what names they are coming up with unless they can physically travel to those patent offices.

***

Well, that brings us to the end of this curation. These pointers, all backed by logic and palpable use-cases, can definitely be used for reliably and wisely predicting the patents that are going to be converted into products. Also, we took examples of varying technologies to showcase that these pointers are applicable through industries and technologies. Therefore, the next time you go out predicting, do take into account the Future Triangle.

Furthermore, identifying such hidden-in-plain-sight trends manually might need a fortnight. Therefore, we have developed proprietary tools that work out this Future Triangle, eddies all the different logics, and foams the most striking, valuable patents out of a whole lot.

On your end too, if you would like to stay ahead of your competitors, you can set up such a service within your IP department — or, go for more time- and cost-saving avenue: Hire a service vendor that offers such intellect. And well, since you are reading this article here, I’d like to tell you that you do not need to search for such a vendor.

We, at GreyB, provide Prediction as a Service, considering a humongous number of comprehensive parameters. Therefore, with us being your service vendor partner, you could rest assured that you’d be implementing the right strategy and making the best decisions.

Want to know how we could help you? Send us an email here and our sales team will get in touch!

Authored by: Priya Vashishth, Rajesh Aggarwal, and Arindam Som, Landscape Team.

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