Wind Tech and Patent Trend Update

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Back in February we released the preliminary results of a patent landscape report, which identified both historical and future trends in the horizontal axis, utility-scale wind turbine industry.

We now have a more comprehensive view of those trends as a result of the analysis on the landscape of pending applications. With the completion of this work we have now analyzed over 1,900 US patents and over 1,500 published US pending applications.

There are now as many pending applications as issued patents, with 1,552 issued patents, 387 expired patents, and 1,561 pending applications. This confirms the deep focus on IP as a competitive differentiator in addition to a focus on product strategy. Top tier companies have vastly outstripped their competition in terms of the number of filings.

I. Industry Relevance: GE Leads

Once again an assessment of the relevance of the patent to the industry was performed and results were classified as low, medium, medium/high, and high. Definitions of this classification method are below.

The assessment of industry relevance serves the purpose of indicating the degree to which the patent owner has or is likely to assert their rights and seek licenses or otherwise enforce the patent. This should be an indication of the proverbial landmines to watch out for when navigating a technology and product roadmap through the landscape.

* Low – Not relevant to the currently pervasive set of technologies and products in the industry.

* Medium – May have been relevant in the past, but as technology evolves it is less prevalent. These are likely to shift to low in the future.

* Medium/High – Important items which the industry needs to be cognizant of, but these can likely be avoided / mitigated. Influence of things like technology trends and grid standards will ultimately determine relevance.

* High – Critical item which has been asserted, licensed or enforced, or else it is highly likely to be in the future.

For pending applications there is obviously a certain amount of variability and attempted claim breadth which does not ultimately manifest in the issued patent, if it subsequently issues at all.

Therefore, we are providing an assessment of industry relevance on the basis of the claim set published without investigation of the file history of each pending application to determine the likely scope of the subsequently issued claims at this point.

II. Component Trends: Blade Aero Dominates, Controls & Sensors Surge, Blade Structure/Manufacturing and Offshore Installation Emerge

The majority of the filing trends have been maintained, but a few noteworthy trend differences from the issued and expired patent landscape previously discussed and the comprehensive portfolio including all pending applications are clear.

Controls & Sensors have taken over the #2 spot behind Blades as the most commonly patented component in the wind turbine and this category is making a run at becoming #1.

Meanwhile, for the current #1 category, blade aero performance continues to be the dominant trend, but blade structure and manufacturing has quickly become an emerging trend with more recent applications.

The majority of the other categories have stayed in their relatively same positions when comparing the overall portfolio to just the currently issued patents, but one new category which has emerged is offshore installation vessels. This demonstrates that there is a concerted effort to make offshore more than just an important market segment, but a potential trend in technology development.

III. Technology Trends: Reliability Remains King

As for technologies, very few dramatic changes have occurred towards the top of the list, with Reliability still king in the wind industry.

The interesting trends are the emergence of Construction & Assembly (particularly in the transportation area), Manufacturing, Cost / Weight Reduction, and Service & Repair as wind OEMs, component vendors, and balance of plant (BOP) contractors get into the mix with ways to be more cost effective and improve quality in those areas.

Article by Philip Totaro, Principal at Totaro & Associates, a consulting firm focused on innovation strategy, competitive intelligence, product development and patent search.

Article appearing courtesy Green Patent Blog.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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