Circular Logic in Patent Analysis
If you encountered an alien from another world and wanted him to understand the concept of what a word is, chances are you would put words (and their object or idea representation) into context with the letters from which we write them and the sentences and paragraphs for which they are a part. This is the best way to describe any system – to put it into context with a system below it and a system above it. It also takes into account work by the mathematician Gödel that shows you cannot describe a system in context with itself.
In the patent world, we frequently violate Gödel’s work by seeking to obtain the value of a patent by measuring it in context with other patents. We create within our patent analyses the “Liar’s Paradox” shown by the sentence “This sentence is false.” An analysis of “This sentence is false.” shows that it cannot be true because then it would be false, and it cannot be false because then it would be true. Patent citations analysis can create a similar dynamic. This patent is valuable because it is highly cited, and this patent is highly cited because it is valuable is always true…except when it is false.
We look at patent citations counts, count patent family members, examine claims structures compared to related patents, and so on, all within context of other patents. So if a patent receives twenty citations and the majority of patents in the field receive five or less, we might assign a higher value to that first patent. Sometimes this would be true; sometimes it would not be true. We could never know for sure until we looked at what that patent means outside the system of patents. Even in that case, the value of the patent would vary widely depending upon what an entity could do with it, or what enforcement of the patent by others kept that entity from doing.
I am not saying here to ignore indicators such as patent citations counts, because if a highly cited patent appears on your radar screen, then you might want to know why it is highly cited. Understand that indicator for what it means, not for what you would like it to mean.
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