Patent knowledge and technology transfer

No doubt you've heard of technology transfer (or simply TT), but perhaps you're wondering how it works. In this article, we'll give you an insight into TT and how using patent knowledge can help you find companies you can collaborate with. 

TT comes in many forms, from small-scale research know-how to the transnational sale and distribution of advanced technologies. Here's the definition we use at the EPO:  

Technology transfer is considered to be the movement of technology and/or know-how from one person or organisation to another person or organisation for the purpose of converting innovative developments into marketable products; this can be for free, by licence, by selling or through a mutual partnership.  

From this definition it's clear that TT is commonly used when the creators or innovators of a new technology are not able to move it forwards. This may be due to a lack of resources (for example a start-up SME that is unable to fund trials of a new drug) or due to a lack of remit (for example government-funded research organisations generally cannot operate commercially). It's important to note that a venture capital firm investing in a start-up or a large company developing products in-house are not examples of TT.  

TT can take place across various channels (see graphic), but the one that is most commonly assumed is the formal granting of a licence to use and develop a technology protected by a patent. 

Formal and informal technology transfer channels

How can patent knowledge enable TT? Many innovative ideas are for techniques and products not yet available on the market, so a direct comparison with what is existing in the public domain is not always easy or possible. Using Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) symbols and Espacenet, two important elements of the patent knowledge toolbox, it's possible to find similar innovations and identify potential business partners. This information can be used to guide any TT strategy.  

TT can go two ways - the innovator looking for someone able to take the next steps, or someone with a problem looking for an innovative solution.  

For innovators looking for interest in their idea, a search in Espacenet can reveal companies with similar technologies in their portfolio. The search might also highlight CPC symbols which the innovator has not yet considered, and investigating these may well lead to the discovery of other companies active in areas close to the innovation but without such clear links. In this way it's possible to use patent knowledge and searches to fine-tune a list of potential target companies, many of which might not have been thought of initially.  

What about those who have a known problem and are looking for an innovative solution? They can use CPC symbols to narrow down subject areas. This then enables a more focused search of patent literature and provides a more efficient way of finding the best candidate solutions.  

After finding a potential business partner, be it a company interested in an innovation or the applicant to an innovative solution, contact can be made and TT negotiations can begin.  

Take the case of Voltea, a real life example of a company using patent knowledge as part of their strategy. Voltea acquired a company which had a patent that was key to their operations:  

"Voltea monitored the market, using feedback from consumers and resellers, reverse-engineering, claim chart analysis and other business intelligence / patent analytics to identify possible infringers. Such market policing also gave the company a proactive approach to identifying licensing opportunities for its CapDI technology and acquiring new clients, such as Atlantis, which Voltea had not been aware of previously."  

We hope this article has given you insights into how patent knowledge tools can provide useful indicators that can help define TT strategies.   

Keywords: Technology Transfer, Innovation, EPO Case Studies, Espacenet  

Further information

Quick Navigation