Leftover: international If you are faced with a problem involving international companies, you’re likely to need to talk to people rather than just search printed/online sources. For example, customers and/or suppliers of the companies involved may be willing to describe what they’ve been told. Again, there is a dichotomy in competitive intelligence: sometimes you should search written sources, sometimes you should call people up. There are also consultants.
International consultants If you feed “cheese marketing consultant” into Babelfish you can find that the Italian is consulente in materia di vendita del formaggio, and if you feed that into Google you can get a set of web pages I can’t understand but names such as Alberto Maselli, Giuseppe Capano, and Umberto Solimene appear to be willing to sell advice on cheese. Similarly “automobile headlights consulting” (turned into German) produced some companies appearing to be in that business. Obviously, you should find somebody who speaks the right language and you are much better off with a personal recommendation than just believing ads on the Web.
Innovative corporations Some corporations are more likely to innovate than others. For example, 3M has a good reputation for this (think yellow post-its). RedHerring recently tried to list them. Top 100 Innovative Companies Companies that will shape the next year in technology. December 13, 2004 Print Issue (Few of these are well-known companies). Some are Dassault, Crossbow, Ember, Exiqon.
Innovative corporations (not) 1998 (above) 2005 (right)
Innovative corporations 1998 (left); 2005 (above)
Three Months Ended October 30,2004 October 25,2003 Cisco From their 10-Q, 3Q 2004: R&D $805M, up from $755M in 2003. General and admin and sales expenses $1035M Gillette 2003 R&D at $202M, up from $185M in 2002. General and administrative expenses plus selling is $3.8B
Technology Is there really a better mousetrap? Standard sources: Patents, Journals, Conferences
Patents are complex Patents are a combination of a gamble that they will be worth something, and a nice addition to your resume. Most patents are never exploited. In theory, a patent has to be an idea that is new, useful, not obvious, and “reduced to practice” (i.e. actually built). All of these are stretched very far in current practice.
Some strange patents 5443036: “Method of exercising a cat” (using a laser pointer)
Some strange patents 6004596: “Sealed crustless sandwich” (the peanut-butter & jelly patent)
Some strange patents 6640379: attachable eyeglass wipers
Some strange patents 5443037: “canine seat belt” (just so you don’t think cats have all the fun)
Patents by class … 144 Woodworking 147 Coopering 148 Metal treatment 149 Explosive and thermic compositions or charges 150 Purses, wallets, and protective covers 152 Resilient tires and wheels 156 Adhesive bonding and miscellaneous chemical manufacture …
Patents by company Merck had 186 patents in 2004 Some titles: 416,797,492 Method for reducing the immunogenicity of antibody variable domains 426,797,476 Process for the scaleable purification of plasmid DNA 436,797,174 Connecting system for plastic columns 446,794,405 Alicyclic imidazoles as H3 agents 456,794,393 Tyrosine kinase inhibitors
Patent searching USPTO is free. Has some oddball features, like $ for truncation. Can also search trademarks, e.g. in Jan. 2005 Merck applied for trademarks on (Usually unproductive; all of these are described as treatments for the same enormous range of ailments)
About a patent United States Patent 6,619,299 Marcon , et al. September 16, 2003 Flavor enhanced whitening dental floss The present invention relates to a flavor enhanced whitening dental floss that comprises a dental floss and various whitening formulations that taste remarkably good. Regular use of such a floss will therefore provide not only a significant improvement in the interproximal and subgingival whiteness of teeth but also provide all other benefits normally associated with flossing. As a result, consumers will now be able to achieve better overall results; inexpensively, safely, and in a much more pleasurable manner than is otherwise possible. Inventors: Marcon; Robert Victor (3471 Sinnicks Avenue, Niagara Falls Ont., CA L2J 2G6); Nash; Lawrence Wayne (17 Beachview Drive, St. Catharines Ont., CA L2N 3W2) Filed: December 17, 2001 Note: no assignee. Thus these two guys work for themselves.
Patents pending The Patent Office will now tell you about patents “in process” after 18 months. This is a change from previous law: Until 2000 patents were secret until issued; then they were valid for 17 years from date of issue. Now they are published after 18 months and are valid for 20 years from date of filing. There are also some gimmicks to provide extensions. The change was supposed to deal with “submarine” patents. Under the old law, you could invent something and market it in good faith, not knowing that somebody else had a patent in process. If their patent was granted, they could then sue you. For example, Forgent Networks bought patent 4,698,672, says that it controls the JPEG image compression algorithm, and has obtained some $90M from various camera & computer companies. Essentially no one knew about this patent (which was issued after JPEG came into widespread use).
Jerome Lemelson (1923-1997) He was the king of submarine patents. His patent applications hold the top thirteen places in the list of “longest time taken to process a patent”. Lemelson has more than 500 patents and made more than $500M from them. In particular, Lemelson applied for patents in computer vision in the 1950s, which under the law he was allowed to repeatedly rewrite, and by the time they issued (the last in 1994) they described bar-code devices.
Research summary sites For example, “extraordinarydairy.com” has a list of cheese research projects (most of which would turn you off eating the stuff, such as reducing the post-baking chewiness of lowfat mozzarella cheese on pizza or strategies to produce 640 lb cheddar blocks with uniform composition, both from Cornell). Similarly “dairyfoods.com” has an article about research progress in cheesemaking. Various other magazines, ranging from ScientificAmerican to Technology Review along with many trade magazines, will have articles boasting about recent progress in their area. There is even a magazine Holstein World Online, and it doesn’t seem to be a Garrison Keillor joke.
University departments Sometimes universities boast about their corporate donors. For example, the Brown computer science department thanks its “list of industrial partners” including: Microsoft, Sun, GTECH, Network Appliance, ITA Software, Edelman & Associates, IBM,Intel, nVidia, Siemens, and Pixar. But these may or may not be up to date: the Purdue SERC center lists as sponsors: NSF, Bell Communications Research, Dynamix, Mentor Graphics, NORTEL, GTE Government Systems, Northrop-Grumman (Rolling Meadows), Northrop-Grumman (Melbourne), Army Research Lab Software Technology Branch. Of these Bell Communications Research has been Telcordia since 1997, and GTE became part of Verizon in 2000.
Conferences, journals This is pretty much familiar science reference. Note however the ability to search for corporate authors or institutions. For example, searching INSPEC for IBM papers in 2000: Inspec uses “.in” for “institution” but other services may use other labels.
Conferences, journals So, for example, asking how many papers with “Unix” in the title or abstract were published by various companies yields:
EI (Engineering Index) General coverage of conferences, etc. Somewhat less academically oriented. However, it’s still generally true that academics are forced to publish while industrial researchers must struggle to publish. Thus, statistics on publishing in open literature often reflect the policy of the organization rather than the amount or quality of the work it does. More useful is judging trends in technology: which areas are gaining, which are (if only relatively) falling back.
Summary • Technology investigations resemble scientific search as usual, but • More interest in restricting searches by corporate affiliation • More interest in finding corporation spending on research • More interest in presenting the results simply • Usually, and unlike normal searching, you want to know who or what, and not how. That is, the question is “who is looking for migraine drugs?” or “what is Merck looking for?” and not “how can we cure migraines?”