Part of a comprehensive patenting program is to create maps of an industry’s and company’s patent landscapes. A patent landscape visually portrays the number, strength, and relationships between the relevant patents and a company’s own patents. According to IP Law & Bus., Vol. 6, Sept. 2008 at 44, “GE designed and built in-house an elaborate application called Matrixx that can analyze data on IP or mechanical and electronic arts and help determine what patents would be most useful. In addition it can examine the IP spaces in which GE operates and determine what areas are most open to future R&D.” That sounds to me to be an impressive capability.
Any law department that oversees a significant patent portfolio should welcome technology like General Electrics, assuming the cost can be swallowed. Software is available that can help automate much of this mapping and visualization work (See my post of Dec. 11, 2007: Microsoft’s software to classify large portfolios of patents.).