Even Large Companies Need a Gap Year

In our last installment, we cautiously came to the conclusion that energy conservation and sustainability was the new hotbed for development in the energy financial settlements sector. In coming to this conclusion, the idea that perhaps platform development had just been wrung dry was dismissed. While accurate, this dismissal does not tell the full story. Many of you who have examined the energy financial settlement Patent Radian® have likely noticed a strange gap in the platform space during 2018.

Snapshot of the Platform space over the past 5 years

On its own such a gap is odd enough to warrant an explanation. The presence of some patents within the gap suggests that it was not caused by some irregularity where the USPTO did not review or publish patents of this nature for a year. These patent documents also signal that for whatever caused the gap, not every company in the sector got the memo. Furthermore, the gap is isolated to just patent documents relating to the architecture space. Additionally, the gap directly precedes dominant companies within the sector shifting to financial exchange development, almost as if the gap, or what caused it, was the precipitating factor for the shift.

Snapshot of major companies patent activity before and after 2018 gap

ABB, Causam, Samsung, Sony, and Johnson Controls, as well as other notable companies in sector like IBM all follow this trend, with the exception of Itron who continued having a strong presence in the platform space after other companies had shifted to financial exchange. Companies with a smaller presence in the sector seem take up the bulk of published documents during 2018. For Samsung and Sony, the gap is where their heavy investment in platform development cuts off. Strangely though, after the gap is where ABB and Causam begin investing more heavily into platform development while also ramping up investment in financial exchange. Undoubtedly the gap signals a shift in focus for the platform space, and coupled with major companies moving financial exchange development right after, the gap likely signals a shift in focus of the entire sector.

Looking at documents before and after the gap, the same trend as in the previous installment is observed. After the gap, companies began focusing heavily on developing technologies that focus on the individual user or individual device and its power consumption, as opposed to the pre-gap practice of developing technologies that manage or connect entire grids. This trend is exemplified when comparing Causam’s pre-gap patent application 20170358949 and post-gap patent 10295969. The pre-gap document focuses on the management of entire power grids with energy conservation being a happy side effect. The post-gap patent on the other hand is focused on predicting the power usage of a market participant and pre-generating a reserve based on the prediction to reduce energy waste.

For Samsung, who all but halted investment in platform development after 2018, the shift is exemplified by pre-gap patent application 20180084057 and post-gap patent application 20200103130. In the pre-gap application, Samsung teaches utilizing the internet of things to develop a smart grid to improve grid reliability and efficiency. In the post-gap application, Samsung teaches the design of a wireless thermostat that is part of an energy management system designed to help a person use less energy. Johnson Controls has always focused on the scale of buildings for energy efficiency, but during the gap and continuing forward they have expanded their field to the financial exchange space, as discussed in our previous installment. Overall, the major companies in the sector seem to be migrating from platform to application.

See the rest of the field at the Patent Forecast® and do not forget to analyze the claims at Patent Matrix®.