From my time as a Patent Examiner and as a Patent Analyst, I’ve performed over 1,000 patentability, invalidity, freedom-to-operate, and valuation-driven searches, covering electrical, computing, and business method technologies. As any searcher can attest, you focus in with a sort of tunnel vision during these projects. There’s really no time for you to stop and smell the roses when you come across a noteworthy patent that’s not central to your search, to actually say to yourself, “Hmm, this is a really interesting technology – why haven’t I seen this yet in the marketplace?”
As I’ve transitioned more towards the business side of IP, I’ve started taking the time to appreciate which patents actually have great promise (as a side note, I strongly believe that the ability to discern which patents exist – or will exist – in a market pull environment as opposed to a market push environment will be an increasingly sought after skill set). We’ll aim to make this type of post an ongoing one, where we’ll preview some of the under-the-radar patents, and why they may have tremendous potential – such that these technologies are ripe to fit in that 1% to 20% range of inventions which actually get commercialized (I personally believe this is closer to 1% than it is 20%, though many reports will cite somewhere in this range). So without further ado, let’s examine our first case:
Accenture is a $30 Billion dollar per year management consulting firm with approximately 1,400 unexpired patent families to its name. Let’s take a look at 3 patents that caught my eye (as a side note, when I dove into the patent claims themselves, they still were fairly broad and representative of what was presented in their abstracts):
– (from abstract) – A wardrobe closet that assists users in selecting and purchasing clothing is provided. A radio frequency receiver scans tags embedded in clothing to identify the clothing. When a user removes an article of clothing from the wardrobe closet, the wardrobe closet suggests other articles of clothing that match the removed article of clothing. The wardrobe closet may also be connected to websites via the Internet. The wardrobe closet may determine the user’s clothing needs and find clothing offered for sale at one or more web sites. The user is then allowed to purchase the clothing.
– (from abstract) -Systems and methods that assist users in the selection of products such as clothing and accessories are provided. A database of rules for selecting combinations of clothing and accessories is coupled to an inference engine server. A user may transmit a search request to the inference engine server. The inference engine server then access the rules and the search request and performs the search in accordance with the rules. The results of the search may then be displayed to the user as recommendations.
I came across these patents not too long ago and mentioned them to my wife. She nearly flipped her lid in excitement before I told her that it’s all just in the ether right now. Understanding these emerging fashion and personal shopper business models through my wife, whether that be Stitch Fix (which also is
slowly rather quickly draining our bank account), Shop it to Me, and The Stylist Online, there is a large market opportunity here (there is a great article that goes into all the promising fashion tech start-ups here: http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2012/02/14/fashion-tech-startups-emerging-from-harvard-b-school-runway-in-droves/)
What Accenture is doing with these patents is largely unknown to me from what I could gather online. They aren’t a product company and they have about 8 years left on all 3 patents before they are set to expire. In regards to the first set of patents, it is commonly known that RFID has been able to be embedded in clothes for several years now (just look at TexTrace – http://www.textrace.ch/en/index.php).
So the technology is there, the market is there. Maybe Accenture has a good exclusive or non-exclusive licensing arrangement set up, maybe not.
I know I My wife would be very interested in finding out.
– Brian Bochicco