A few years ago, during the height of the green patent fast track craze, I wrote a post on cleantech companies generating PR about their patent applications being accepted into an accelerated examination program or being granted by such a program.
Though the excitement has died down and the USPTO green tech fast track was closed last year, green patent PR remains alive and well.
In the past few weeks Biofuels Digest picked up two such stories. The first was about a Notice of Allowance received by a Canadian company called CO2 Solutions for a patent application entitled “Methods and formulations using carbonic anhydrase and reaction compound combinations.”
The second piece reported the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 8,420,782, entitled “Molecular DNA-binding domains and methods of use” and related to gene editing based on the use of TAL effectors. The patentee is Illinois-based Two Blades Foundation.
The patent PR in the cleantech industry sparked my interest in the broader phenomenon of PR materials concerning patent matters. I was curious to find out to what extent this was occurring in other industries, and exactly what types of subject matter are involved when patentees generate media content about their patents.
So a few months ago, I started researching the subject matter technology firms are communicating when they generate PR content concerning patents (see the Abstract here). I compiled and analyzed a random set of 414 patent-focused press releases generated by patentees, or their licensees, from 2008 to March 2013 and catalogued the subject matter contained therein.
The data set enabled me to create a taxonomy of patent-focused PR content. As it turns out, the subject matter of patent PR can be broken down into the following top-level categories: (1) prosecution; (2) litigation; (3) transactional matters; (4) post-grant procedures; (5) patent-related honors/accolades; (6) patented or patent pending products; and (7) ANDA patent challenges.
Most of the top-level categories can be further divided into second-level subject matter categories. In the patent prosecution category, for example, the study calculates the proportion of press releases involving (a) patents granted; (b) Notices of Allowance issued; (c); applications filed; (d) applications pending; and (e) responses to office actions filed.
So the CO2 Solutions story would be categorized as Prosecution; Notice of Allowance issued. The Two Blades Foundation article would be Prosecution; Patent granted.
Within the patent litigation category I found that the largest proportion of press releases relates to settlement of litigation, perhaps reflecting the reality that most patent cases settle but also suggesting that firms may believe it more beneficial to report early resolution of patent litigation than enforcement activity or court victories.
As to industry statistics, my preliminary results indicate that pharmaceutical firms generate the largest proportion of press releases, a finding consistent with the importance of patents to the pharmaceutical industry. The cleantech industry is in fifth place with 9.2% of press releases in the data set.
I’m hoping that the data I present in this study will help to elucidate which patent-related events technology firms believe are important to highlight and provide a foundation for subsequent inquiries into how patent PR may affect public opinion of patents and patentees.
Eric Lane is a patent attorney at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org