How to know if competitors are filing patents on your products?

We have been working on a lot of drone-related patent monetization projects recently and came across quite a few interesting drone-related patents worth acquiring. Flirtey’s drone safety patent was one of those and I initially thought it was a rare gem in their small portfolio comprising a little over a couple of dozen patents.

However, my opinion changed when I came across Flirtey’s recently issued patent – US10618655B2. This new patent strongly indicates that Flirtey could be coming up with something comparable to big fishes in drone technology like DJI, Yuneec, etc.

If you are working in the drone space or in any tech niche for that matter, you ought to know what your competitors are up to. Flirtey’s new patent covers interesting drone technology and when I came across it, the first question that crossed my mind was – Which other drone players might be working on this tech, and what kind of obstacles does Flirtey’s new patent create for other companies in the domain?

Gladly, I had access to a tool that could answer these questions.

Our tool BOS, designed with proprietary algorithms, can among other things, help find companies that were trying to file patents on similar tech.

For this, we simply need to input a US patent(s) into BOS. BOS helps in quickly identifying valuable insights via an intelligent screening of prosecution data of US patents. For example –

  • did the examiners use a particular granted patent/patent publication to provide 102/103 rejections to later filed patent applications,
  • which companies own these blocked patent applications,
  • whether those patent applications abandoned after these rejections or had to amend their claims to get the granted patent, etc.

This info can help understand the advantage the inputted patent’s owners like Flirtey have over other companies listed by BOS. Also, it can help in understanding if the inputted patent can be a good target for acquisition for any big players working in that tech area.

Interesting, right?

I wanted to know more and I looked up this patent on our BOS tool to find more details. I’ll tell you all I found albeit after a quick look at the patent.

What is US’655 all about?

Flirtey’s newly issued US patent US10618655B2 (also published as US20170267347A1) discloses a locking mechanism for holding packages for delivery with a drone.

Source: https://tryslate.greyb.com/engage/US10618655B2

Holding packages is an important constituent in drone-based delivery because packages come in all sizes and shapes and delivering them to the right location unhindered is pretty important. I now wanted to know what other drone manufacturers and drone delivery services are doing in this regard and how Flirtey’s new patent is preventing them.

This is what BOS had to say about US’655

When I inputted this patent in our BOS tool, it indicated that Boeing and IBM were trying to patent something similar in their patent applications US15/954,421 (published as US20190315466A1) and US15/357,821 (published as US20180144302A1).

What are Boeing and IBM’s patent about?

US10814983B2 (or US Appl. No. 15954426) filed by Boeing seems to discuss a system for attaching a package for delivery with a drone. The examiner provided a 102 rejection to Boeing’s patent application, citing Flirtey’s US‘655 patent (or Rinaldi et al. 2017/026347) as shown below:

 Source: File Wrapper – US20190315466A1 – Non-Final Rejection – April 22, 2020

This seems to indicate that Boeing was trying to patent something similar to what’s already protected within Flirtey’s ‘655 patent. But Boeing had to amend their claims to get it granted. The interesting thing is – Boeing has also started testing their drone delivery system. Recently, Boeing successfully completed the first outdoor flight test of its experimental cargo air vehicle (CAV).

On the other hand, US20180144302A1 (or US Appl. No. 15357821) filed by IBM seems to claim a package delivery system wherein the drones autonomously deliver the packages to the recipient.

As shown in the table above, we can see that IBM received five 103 rejections based on Flirtey’s patent due to which they had to make multiple changes in the claims. This indicates that IBM’s patent application was quite similar to Flirtey’s US‘655 patent.

What are other drone players upto w.r.t package handling?

I also noticed that Flirtey’s patent is cited by large companies like Amazon, Walmart, Qualcomm, etc. I was curious to know what these big names in drone tech are doing in regards to package handling via drones. So, I did a quick research on Google Patents to find patent applications from Walmart and Wing Aviation like US20190235527A1 and US10875648B2 which are discussing package holding mechanisms. Both of these companies have been quite active in the research and testing of package delivery systems using drones.

From an analyst’s point of view, it seems that a lot of big companies are working around Flirtey’s patents. It doesn’t seem surprising either given its clever inventions like drone safety mechanisms and package holding systems which are essential to drone technology. It will be really interesting to see how things unfold from here.

It’s all a matter of time before we find out. With that said, finding which competitors are filing patents close to your technology is essential information that you need to be aware of, for strategic reasons. With that info, you could either design around those patents or even better, consider if they are a good option for acquisition. Need a hand with either of those?

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