“Carve Out Your Technological Space By Meeting Unarticulated Needs To Create Innovation Opportunities for Future”

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A Focus On “White Space” Opportunities

Idea Visor offers a wide range of patent research and consulting services with a focus on using the patent landscape to identify “white space” opportunities for innovation.

What Is a “White Space” Opportunity?

As the name implies, “white space” refers not to the areas where your competitors already are but to the areas “where they ain’t.” There are five general categories of white space opportunities that we look for in a patent landscape, which are outlined here:

  1. Areas of Low Activity: These are areas that are important (and even inevitable) but remain areas of low patent activity because they are seen as second or third order problems. For example, in the autonomous vehicle space it seems important and obvious that cars will all eventually communicate with each other, yet there is relatively little patent activity in this space as compared to object and situation identification. The reason is that the players in this space are racing to solve the first order problems of – to put it bluntly – not crashing into things at the expense of the second order problem of inter-vehicle networks. So, if you wanted to enter the autonomous vehicle space you might be interested in pursuing the low activity space of inter-vehicle networking that is currently being ignored by the major players.
  2. Areas of High Activity: This one seems counter-intuitive but illustrates the importance of having your technical team involved in the patent landscape process.  More often than not, identifying an area of high patent activity can signal an opportunity. Why would you want to enter an area of high patent activity?  Because if there is a lot of patents but no products resulting from those patents it often means – nobody has figured out how to solve the problem! We can identify, on a patent-by-patent basis, exactly how the competition is trying to solve a problem so that your technical team can assess those solutions and identify alternative solutions that others have missed.
  3. Maintenance Categories: This is a category that is almost always left wide open, especially in relatively new markets.  Every product or service that is launched is going to require some sort of maintenance: recharge, refill, update, replace, fix, add-on, etc. It is a fact.  Yet, time and time again, patent activity is sparse if not empty in this category even though it has been proven time and time again that you can build an entire business model just around this category. Perhaps a better name for this category is the Rapid-Oil-Change category. How can you become the rapid oil change of your industry?
  4. Negative White Space: This is another category that requires a strong consultative interface with your technical team.  Often times a competitor will choose one specific technology for solving a problem (and patent it) while leaving the door wide open to solve the same problem with another technology. The resulting opportunity in this space will be stated in the negative, such as: create an implantable device that doesn’t use constant voltage, or create a catheter that doesn’t use a
  5. Segmentation-Based White Space: This is a category of opportunities that are best identified by your marketing team. Rather than trying to come up with a one-size-fits all solution like the competition, it is sometimes more valuable to identify the “premium” market segment with niche-specific problems that the general technology does not solve, or does not solve well enough for this particular niche.

These are examples of some of the white space opportunities that we can uncover in the patent landscape. And you can, of course, find multiple opportunities within each category. However, while it is fun to be able to say that you have identified 27 white space opportunities for innovation using the patent landscape, the fact is that there will generally be, at most, 2 or 3 opportunities that are of immediate business and competitive value to you. For those opportunities, the patent-by-patent analysis and the consultative approach to the patent landscape proves itself most valuable.