Multiple criteria have been used over the years by companies and investors to identify the commercial viability of a technology within a given industry. Included among these criteria are timeliness, market demand, and competitive advantage. These and other criteria may be applicable to more established industries; however, it may be more difficult to apply them when assessing technology within a new or emerging industry, such as video gaming.
In looking for potentially high-value opportunities, game developers may want to look at the patent system. In particular, the information available in a patent database, such as the US Patent and Trademark Patent Database, can provide insight into, among other things, early trends in technological advances, and when taken as a whole, such information can act as an indicator of potentially high-value opportunities.
A game developer may look to the number of patents issued or applications filed in the video game sector to gain insight to a particular trend or focus, the potential for commercial exploitation, and emerging markets for such technology. For example, a search of the USPTO patent database using the terms “video game” and “controller” returned approximately 1700 issued patents in 2013 that were directed to video game controller technology. For a late entrant to a video game category, the number of patents issued or applications filed can help determine the risks associated with entering such a market in light of the particular patent landscape.
A game developer might also look to the ownership information to determine who the competitors may be and whether a competitive position exists for a particular game category or application of a game technology. To the extent that there are but a few competitors, it does not necessarily mean that barrier to entry is low. If it turns out that the number of patents issued to or owned by these competitors is relatively high, then the opportunity for that particular category or application may be minimal.
A game developer might further look to the citation information of patents to determine risks and opportunities. When a patent has been repeatedly cited by others, such information can be determinative of the licensing potential of the patent. Accordingly, if you are looking to establish a dominant position in a gaming area, you may look to enhance your portfolio by acquiring these repeatedly cited patents. Alternatively, repeated citations can be indicative of potential roadblocks to overcome when expanding the technology outward, unless there is a possibility of entering into a cross-licensing relationship with the owner of the oft-cited patent.
Patent claim scope may also be used as an indicator of available opportunities within a particular area of video gaming. To the extent that the patent provides broad scope of protection, the owner of such a patent can act to deter the number of competitors entering into that particular area.
These are but a few examples of patent information that can be strategically used. Compiling and inter-relating such information to form the basis for an intelligent evaluation of commercial opportunities can be valuable.
Moreover, these patent-based criteria, whether used alone or in association with traditional criteria for evaluating technology, can be a useful tool in assessing the potential commercial value for a particular video game technology or platform.