I have had a lot of valuable discussions with people about measuring patent quality in the last few months. A number of these discussions have had people making statements along the lines: "To measure patent quality you have look at the claims, the patent wrapper, quality of the drafting, etc, and this best done by a patent attorney".
I have thought about this proposition, and come to the conclusion that it is completely true. These factors are very important, and are best done by competent patent attorneys or patent lawyers. However this is only part of the story.
Imagine buying a house. This is a big investment, particularly an existing house where you might not fully understand its history. And accordingly, and this is exactly what I did when I bought a house, you would be well advised to hire a builder or ex-builder to carefully go over the house to advise on how well it is built and how well it is likely to last. A builder is best qualified to advise on this as they are intimately aware of the intricacies of building homes.
However when I bought my house, I did not dream of asking the builder how much he thought the house was worth. And if I had done this, he probably would have refused to provide a figure, as this did not fit in with his area of professional expertise.
Instead to value our home we used a valuer. And what the valuer did was compare the overall quality of the home (in an approximate sense) to their databse of other houses in the neighbourhood where sale price data was available, and use this data to estimate the value of the house.
And both roles are very important. A builder to tell you that a house is well built - and the valuer to tell you that the house is worth buying (or keeping).
This is a key value proposition of Network Patent Analysis (NPA). NPA is not intended to replace the role of a patent attorney in reviewing the strength of individual patents. However NPA can give an objective comparison of individual patents to the other patents in the 'neighbourhood', and so provide a systematic basis for patent valuation.
As an example, consider the likely value of the Motorola patent shown in the figure below, which appears to be prior art for a number of highly ranked Apple patents.
Hence NPA can play an important role in the due diligence of patents, a role that goes beyond the more traditional roles of looking at patent validity and coverage as expressed by the claims and file wrapper of the patent. NPA is also useful as it can review up to tens of thousands of patents at a time, allowing the patent attorney to focus their valuable efforts at the most promising prospects.