Wednesday, 5 August 2015

From data to analytics: why the distinction is important

Earlier this week, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) issued its Instructions for submission of 2014 Annual Technical Reports. This is a routine administrative matter, almost a non-event, which receives no great blaze of publicity and is easy enough to miss completely amid the welter of missives emanating from WIPO on a regular basis.

The Instructions however mark the beginning of a process that has a great deal of significance for the intellectual property information community: the task of gathering-in of patent, trade mark and industrial design information from the national or regional industrial property offices: this activity includes a trawl of figures for how many applications for registered rights are received and how many are granted; whether the applicants are domestic or foreign and whether they have made use of international filing arrangements.  Eventually they will lead to the publication of the 2015 version of WIPO's World Intellectual Property Indicators (you can check out the 2014 version here, covering 2013). 

Two things can be said about this exercise.  

The first point is that, even with the availability of modern information technology, the gathering up and synthesis of data from WIPO's many member states remains a relatively slow process, so the results once collated have a somewhat historical flavour to them: it's only now, with most of 2015 behind us, that the submission of 2014 data is being solicited.  To economists and government advisers this time-lag will not be a major problem: once they are published the gross figures, even if a year or so behind real time, still reflect general trends -- and the broad sweeps of IP policy are unlikely to be directed by reference to a single year's figures.

The second point is that this exercise reflects the difference between patent and other IP data on the one hand and analytics on the other.  Compilations of data are always interesting: they show which countries are receiving or generating more applications, for example, as well as which areas of technology or commerce are most frequently the subject of protection. However, this data requires refinement if it is to be useful for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators.  Without being framed within a particular context and enriched by some form of commentary or explanation, collated data by itself cannot cast light on a decision whether to invest in a new project, whether to license or sell one's IP or whether to buy into an established technology in the face of a challenge from a disruptive one that is still on the horizon.  The data must first be broken down into its relevant integers and then reconstructed and interpreted -- and that is the function of IP analytics.


  1. What is astonisihing is that much useful information is not gathered at the patent filing stage and cannot easily be sourced elsewhere. Have a look at the freedom of information requests to the UKIPO and the answers, which often include "we do not have that data"!

  2. Thanks Nick. I think WIPO doesn't ask too much from national patent offices since they vary so much in terms of their capabilities, resources and reporting/recording requirements under national law. That doesn't mean we shouldn't encourage the leading offices to take steps in the direction you suggest.