The collective intelligence of crowds is an increasingly recognised within the business community, partly inspired by the 2004 book on ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ by New York journalist James Surowiecki. A number of examples of this collective wisdom are given, such as ability of a fairground crowd to estimate the weight of a bull in an agricultural fair (the average guess of the crowd was very close to the actual weight of the bull). And in the patent world some websites are being set up with the purpose of accessing this wisdom, for example by requesting that contributors help uncover prior art for patents being litigated.
But what if there was a way to tap into this collective wisdom of (patent) crowds without even asking them? And a method that also avoided the various risks of crowds as discussed in the now seminal 1841 book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, by Scottish journalist James Mackay?
We believe that Network Patent Analysis (NPA) may be that method. As discussed on the Ambercite website, NPA analyses the collective intelligence of patent applicants as expressed by their choices to file patents for particular types of inventions. These opinions are grouped by patent citations. Up to a million patent citations can be analysed in an NPA study, and the result is a grouping and ranking of up to 250,000 patents. NPA is an objective means of grouping and summarising many subjective opinions.
But how can we be sure that NPA is drawing upon the wisdom and any the madness of (the patent filing) crowds? According to Surowiecki, a wise crowd shares the following characteristics:
• Diversity of opinion
• Independence of opinion
• A mechanism to aggregate diverse opinions of the crowd
Do patent applicants share the first three of these characteristics? It is easy to believe that, on the whole, patent applicants act and think independently of each other, particularly in commercially sensitive areas where they try not to share information with each other. Some of the independence of the patent data might be comprised by large organisations filing lots of patents in some areas, but important technology areas are full of patents filed by a range of different and competing organisations.
And as for the fourth characteristic, aggregation of opinions, this is exactly what NPA does. NPA aggregates vast amounts of patent citation data to create a collective opinion on grouping and ranking of patents and their related technologies.
Want to know more? Check out our white papers available on the Griffith Hack or Ambercite websites, or download copies of reports including a recently prepared analysis of a new patent litigation against hybrid car market leader Toyota, along with our popular report on litigated smartphone patents. All reports are now available without registration – but feel free to contact us if you would like to apply the benefit of NPA to your business.