IPIB: How competitive is your IP service firm?

Want hard answers to tough questions? The IP Industry Base (IPIB), a database developed by the Competitive Intelligence Group at the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy (IMW), Leipzig, might provide some.

The IPIB seeks to provide transparency in the IP Service Industry by providing company profiles for each IP service provider, based on publicly available information - i.e., primarily patent databases. It is free to use on a "fair use" basis. For more information, have a look at the slides for the presentation by Lutz Maicher (University of Jena) held on the occasion of the EPO’s Patent Information Conference 2017 on 8 November 2017 in Budapest Sofia (this post is largely based on the presentation; the presentation being much more comprehensive). The IPIB aims to
  • be (mostly) complete for Europe,
  • reveal a significant part of the US market,
  • indicate the structure of important spots in Asia (like Singapore) and
  • be a proxy for the situation of the IP Service industry in the rest of the world.
IPIB allows for example to access a customer profile for each patent agent firm in the database. For Maiwald Patentanwalts GmbH, Munich, the customer profile reveals that Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. is their most important customer (measured by number of patents for which Maiwald provided services, 702), followed by Airbus Operations GmbH (317 patents) and Borealis AG (266 patents).

Maiwald's expertise in A61P and A61Q (screenshot from IPIB)
IPIB further assesses the specific expertise of each firm based on the type of patents it worked on. A specialisation profile of a patent agent firm is the set of all IPC classes in which the firm is significantly more active than expected from its own activity profile and the whole market activities. The IPIB uses a Relative Specialisation Index (RSI) which allows to generate idiotypic and dichotomous specialisation profiles for each patent agent firm. The RSI specialisation is based on the the theory of comparative advantage and the ARCA measure.

For Maiwald, the RSI reveals that in IPC A61P (specific therapeutic activity of chemical compounds or medicinal preparations), they have a lot of expertise - 860 practitioners filed patents in A61P and only 16 have more practical expertise than Maiwald. In C09C (treatment of inorganic materials, other than fibrous fillers, to enhance their pigmenting or filling properties), Maiwald is even the "most experienced" patent firm in the database, having worked on 136 patents in this class. More brutal to some will be that in the rightmost column of the expertise tab, the firm with the most expertise in a given field is listed.

Maiwald's main competitors in similar markets
If you are interested in finding a firm with relevant expertise in a given technical field, you can enter the IPC code in a search input and you get a ranking based on the number of patents worked on by the firms in this class. For F02 (combustion engines; hot-gas or combustion-product engine plants), this reveals that Dehns Ltd, London, is the absolute market leader with 1,958 patents worked on, followed by Cabinet Beau de Loménie (CBDL), Paris.

In the "competitors" tab of the IPIB, you can find the main competitors of your firm, arranged by "doing the same, globally", "doing the same, in similar markets" and "doing the same, in similar regions".

The IPIB also assigns a global "Performance Score". In their own words "the IPIB [Performance] score aims to assess the performance of IP Service Provider by following the theory of the resource-based view. Each capacity of an IP Service Provider, which is observable for the IPIB, adds points to the company's score. In example, having an office in Munich adds more points than having an office in Hannover. The rationale behind is that surviving in an environment with high competition indicates strong skills. Furthermore, a crowded environment provides access to a denser knowledge base. This is access is also considered as a valuable resource of the IP Service Provider. The IPIB score is re-calculated on a regular basis in order to provide insights into the industry dynamics." I know what a lot of you are going to be doing today… as mentioned, IPIB is free, so check your score. There is a link provided to correct incomplete or wrong data (the "key employments" tab seems outdated in most instances, for example). Although this does not pertain to your score, I am afraid.
Maiwald's IPIB Score from January 2016 to April 2017 (screenshot from IPIB)
IPIB: How competitive is your IP service firm? IPIB: How competitive is your IP service firm? Reviewed by Mark Schweizer on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 Rating: 5


  1. Competition is neither inherently bad nor good, but there are limitations in how quality and service can be judged by a limited, publically available data set. I am not sure quality and service can be properly judged from this data. Is it arguable that, it is the wisdom of the crowd that creates the value in such comparisons? In other words, because the best firms get repeat business, they score highly. Or do they get repeat business because they cost less and cut acceptable corners to do so? I think the best firms, get repeat business and cost a lot, perhaps fairly.

    Two more questions, 1) how do small or new (and excellent) firms fair in these metrics, 2) how do patent attorneys feel about their names and clients names being agglomerated in this way

  2. At least for Germany the data is completely flawed because many German companies outsource their drafting but then file by themselves. This cannot be reflected using public available sources.

  3. There are two indicators of performance that might interest clients, but only one of these two can be got from public records at the EPO.
    One is how many patents a service provider can get for my one million USD.
    The other is how much above the average win rate is my service provider when i defending my patent against an opponent and ii how often the oppositions filed for me arr successful.

  4. My comment yesterday was sent in haste from my phone and I see now it wasn't very clear.

    I was thinking that there are many aspects to the notion of "performance".

    Some clients want their service provider to "perform" by getting lots of patents for little money.

    Others want their service provider to get patents that don't go down in opposition and defend successfully those patents that do get opposed. They want attorneys who will succeed, in whatever oppositions they themselves file.

    I think data available from the EPO allows the collection of data relevant to the latter aspect of "performance". But not the former of course.

    To the anonymous first commenter, my thought is that people will take the IPIB numbers for what they are worth. Not much, it's true, at least for small new firms of service providers.

    But for big old firms, the IPIB might reveal some interesting stuff, surely.

    And if IPIB gets intelligent steady feedback, and diligently acts upon it, who knows how its results could improve.

    I'm a bit surprised that no other reader feels moved to comment.

  5. @maxdrei:

    there should be an industry body to collect numbers for these two indicators from companies having significant patent budgets. That would help in assessing performance of external firms as well as performance of inhouse departments and all large applicants should profit from this.

  6. Anonymous said...
    "I am not sure quality and service can be properly judged from this data."

    The IP Industry Base does not aim to judge about the quality of IP services. The database is a research oriented project, which aims to collect, harmonize and partially analyse openly available data with the goal of creating transparancy for the market. We aim to be as objective as possible and disclose our methodology. Furthermore we encourage third parties, especially researchers, to use the data for further investigations, like the invention of new quality measures.

    Anonymous said...
    "1) how do small or new (and excellent) firms fair in these metrics."

    For that reseason we developed the RSI specialisation measure, which is used in the "specialisation box". The RSI specialisation indicates the IPC classes in which a patent agent firm is surprisingly more active, than it can be expected from its own activity level (independently whether it is a big or small company) and the market activity in that IPC class. Hence, the RSI specialisation is considering the size of the company. We will publish a paper about the RSI specialisation in World Patent Information soon (paper is in publishing process).

    Anonymous said...
    "2) how do patent attorneys feel about their names and clients names being agglomerated in this way?"

    We only use public available data, which is arguably published (by the EPO and others) in oder to sustain and improve the innovation system as it is. We understand the IP Industry Base as a contribution to this ambition. All the data we are representing is derived from public source (and we link to these public sources). Client names are currently only aggregated on firm level, and again, no kind of trade secret is disclosed. And on request, we anonymize the entry of a specific patent attorney.

  7. Anonymous said Wednesday, 15 November 2017 at 08:28:00 GMT

    "At least for Germany the data is completely flawed because many German companies outsource their drafting but then file by themselves. This cannot be reflected using public available sources."

    I wouldn't say that the data is flawed, but anyone who is using the data (and our interpretations) should be aware of the limitations. Indeed, the outsourcing of more operational tasks to more specialised IP service providers is an hardly observable issue. Recently Sevim Süzeroglu-Melchiors (Dennemeyer Consulting GmbH) published an interesting paper on that topic in World Patent Information, based on internal data they have about their customer relationships: "The supply side of the IP management: Understanding firms' choices regarding IP intermediaries." http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wpi.2017.08.002

    The outsourcing literature indicates, that the first tier supplier is strongly motivated to ensure the quality and performance of the second tier suppliers they sub-contract themselves. By measuring the quantity and the quality of the activties of the first tier suppliers, we indirectly measure the overall performance of the sub-contracted supply network they use as well.

    Summarized, the decision of the prospective customer bases on the results she can expect from the first tier supplier. So it would be nice to know more about the sub-contracted supply networks behind the scence, but in the end the customers are interested in the results provided by the first tier suppliers.

  8. My performance score for this nonsensical exercise is minus 234 - about as relevant as the blind data-crunching scores they show, in my opinion.

  9. Mr Maicher said "We only use public available data, which is arguably published (by the EPO and others) in order to sustain and improve the innovation system as it is."

    The data of patent attorneys is published on a register as a condition of being registered. To be able to practice as a European Patent Attorney you must be on that register.Each individual submits to this and to being regulated by the EPI. The public is able to see that the individual is registered and meets the criteria of registration. That is the main purpose. A secondary purpose is to enable third parties to be able to contact a representative (European Patent Attorney) on a matter as an address for service. That is also a legitimate purpose.

    Your assertion is incorrect. You are processing and collating patent attorneys data with seemingly no legitimate reason and without explicit permission to do so.

    Academic interest is not enough. You should ask permission of each individual whose data you have used, for permission to use it and to use it and publish it for this purpose.

    You do not have mine.


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