Look What’s Now Patently Obvious in Cleantech

Anyone can look up at the sky and make a guess at tomorrow’s weather. But having actual data informs your opinion and makes your guess a little more accurate.

Which is why, as a managing director of a leading cleantech data provider and responsible for the presentation of its quarterly global cleantech data, I developed a real respect for venture investment figures.

Because while everyone’s got an opinion about the health of the cleantech space, as in weather forecasting, data matters.

Venture investment, the rationale goes, is one of the best leading indicators of the health of the cleantech sector. Where venture investment goes, so eventually goes private equity, corporate investment, and—if all goes well—exits, ultimately. Venture investment serves as a sort of proxy for what tech sectors are hot, what geographies are up and coming and is an indication (though not the only one) of which companies and investors to watch.

In presenting this quarterly data, however, I’d always been interested in other data types so as to be able to offer a fuller picture of the overall health of cleantech globally. I’d always wanted insight into patents, specifically. So I’m pleased that Berkeley, Calif.-based IP Checkups, a longtime collaborator, just introduced its CleanTech PatentEdge service—an online searchable database of international patent data.

IP Checkups has performed custom patent searches in cleantech since 2006. It has supported us at Kachan & Co. with data in our cleantech advisory consulting engagements, such as the competitive assessment project abstracted here that leveraged patent data to find companies quietly pursuing ethylene from methane.

And now, with its new service, anyone can access the patent database IP Checkups has built, query 1.5 million patent grant and application entries from the US, EP, WO and JP patent databases and produce attractive charts and tables.

Why do we believe this patent service is a big deal?

  • Cleantech vendors can use this data to learn about competitors
  • Large corporations can find emerging or established companies with strong patent portfolios for strategic partnership and/or acquisition
  • Investors can verify the protection (and defensibility) of their portfolio companies’ IP and potentially find new investment opportunities in cleantech sectors rife with innovation
  • Market research firms can study cleantech patent trends over time, compare technology sectors and research individual companies

Doesn’t patent information want to be free?
With free data available from patent offices, and in a world where digital information is chomping at its virtual bit, why pay for the PatentEdge service? Because it’s not easy to search the multiple free online patent databases around the world and normalize the results you get back. When importing into Excel, you’re limited to pasting 65,000 records at a time, and can only have 1,048,576 rows total (and there are a lot more than 1,048,576 patents in cleantech.) Then you then need to cut the data and develop the charts you seek, and even run the risk of the data being out of date by the time you’re done.

By contrast, PatentEdge pre-sorts patent data in a nice online interface, features analytic tools, monthly updated results and enterprise sharing capabilities.

The relationship between cleantech funding, products and patents
I’d long wondered whether the quarterly velocity of patent filings in cleantech mapped to quarterly venture investment. Could they also be used as a leading indicator of where the industry was heading?

Unfortunately not. There’s a lag in being able to access patent filings because patent offices insert an intentional 18 month delay between filing and publishing so as to give entrepreneurs a head start in commercializing their innovations from the time of filing. As a result, patents only appear in the PatentEdge database a year and a half after they’re filed. But they give insight into where to expect cleantech products, according to IP Checkup President Matt Rappaport.


Cleantech investment and patents quarterly

Is there a correlation between venture investment and patent filings? Does one lead the other? Historically, the two are correlated, as these two graphs show, but while an 18-month lag in patent data prevents it being used as a leading indicator of innovation, patent data is a good indicator of where to look for market-ready products. Sources: Cleantech Group and IP Checkups.

Cleantech products, Rappaport notes, generally emerge soon after the 18 month hold period. Cut the patent data by sector or geography, and you suddenly get educated insights about whether a bevvy of new thin film solar offerings are about to emerge from China, say, or what exact types of new biological drop-in biofuel processes from algae you should start to expect to see written about in the press soon. Those are different types of insights than you get from cleantech venture data.

Which sounds like it might help make the business of cleantech market weather forecasting a little more interesting.

CleanTech PatentEdge annual subscriptions begin at $180/month for individual users, and $450/month for 3-5 users. Month-to-month plans, corporate and educational group rates are also available, according to IP Checkups.

This article was originally published here and is reposted by permission.


A former managing director of the Cleantech Group, Dallas Kachan is now managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech research and advisory firm that does business worldwide from San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver. Kachan & Co. staff have been covering, publishing about and helping propel clean technology since 2006. Kachan & Co. offers cleantech research reports, consulting and other services that help accelerate its clients’ success in clean technology. Details at

Clean Energy Patent Growth Index 2010 Year End & 4th Quarter Results

March 29, 2011

Contact: (518) 452-5600
Victor A. Cardona, Esq.
Jeff Rothenberg, Esq.
Alana M. Fuierer, Esq.


ALBANY, NY—Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C. is pleased to announce the 2010 year end, and 4th quarter, results for the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) by the firm’s Cleantech Group.

The CEPGI tracks the granting of patents in the Clean Energy sector and monitors important technological breakthroughs in this field. Victor Cardona, Co-chair of the firm’s Cleantech Group stated, “we are pleased to announce that results for the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index indicate that Clean Energy Patents hit a record high in 2010, up over 700 patents relative to 2009. GM took the yearly Clean Energy Patent Crown from Honda in 2010 while U.S. patent owners hold more U.S. patents than any other country. Also, solar patents passed wind patents in 2010 while fuel cells continued to lead.”

The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) provides an indication of the trend of innovative activity in the Clean Energy sector since 2002 in the U.S., along with Leading Patent Owners and Leading Country and State information. Results through the fourth quarter of 2010 reveal the CEPGI for 2010 to be at its highest level ever at 1181 granted patents, up over 170 percent, as depicted below. This is the largest year to year jump since we began tracking clean energy patents by over three times the previous year to year difference. This compares to a 31 percent increase generally for all patents from 2009 to 2010 – which was the best showing ever for patents generally. Clean energy innovation is clearly far outpacing technology in general.

As depicted in the below breakdown of the CEPGI by its sub-components, patents in fuel cells and wind were each up over fifty seven percent over 2009. Solar patents were up an astounding 134 percent while hybrid/electric vehicles were up sixty percent. Tidal energy and biomass/biofuel energy patents were up twenty eight and forty one percent, respectively, at fourteen patents each. Hydroelectric patents were up sixteen patents, an over five hundred percent increase. Geothermal patents was the only sector that decreased at five less patents than 2009, a fifty percent decrease. All of the technology sectors, except geothermal, were at all time highs in 2010, surpassing all previous records.

GM took the annual clean energy patent crown from last year’s winner Honda. Samsung jumped to second place, largely on the strength of its fuel cell patents, overtaking Honda and Toyota relative to 2009. Toyota increased its annual total by 20 patents to get fourth place while GE increased by thirty to place in fifth. Nissan (6th), Ford (8th) and Hyundai (9th) rounded out the automobile competitors for 2010. GE placed fifth predominantly on the strength of its wind patents which was over twice the number of patents of its nearest wind patent competitor in 2010, Vestas Wind Systems. Panasonic came in 7th in 2010 to tie its 2009 showing on the strength of its fuel cell patents and exceeded the 29 patents from 2009 by five patents, after having had only 6 in all the prior years. Hitachi rounded out the top 10 with 23 patents which were predominantly in the fuel cell and wind areas. Canon, far and away the solar photovoltaic patent leader since 2002, missed the top ten with a 12th place showing in 2010 at 15 patents.

Geographically, US patent owners held far more US clean energy patents than any other individual country in 2010. Japan, Korea and the US appear to be on an upward trajectory with the US taking a huge leap in 2010 after being on a slight uptrend from the time tracking began until 2009. South Korea surpassed Canada in 2008 and Germany in 2010. Germany trends slightly upwardly while the others are holding steady and the number of Canadian clean energy patents slightly decreasing. Looking at 2010 in more detail, Denmark (33) and France (29) fall between Canada (24) and Taiwan (40). China made a showing at 15 clean energy patents which far surpassed its previous high of 6 in 2009. Great Britain followed with 13 patents while Israel and Switzerland had nine clean energy patents in 2010.

Looking at the U.S. data in more detail, California overtook Michigan as the leading US state for clean energy patents in 2010 despite huge increases from both states of over 90 patents each. New York also had a big jump of 40 patents over the prior year. Smaller increases were found for Illinois, Connecticut and Texas while Massachusetts declined by two patents. Connecticut and Massachusetts tied at 30 in 2010 while Ohio (25) and Pennsylvania (tying Texas at 24) weren’t far behind. Florida at 23 rounded out the states having over 20 clean energy patents in 2010. Others had big increases including Oregon up 10, Virginia up 13, Delaware up 12, and New Mexico up 14.

Further information regarding the CEPGI is available at Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C. is dedicated exclusively to representing clients in the protection and commercialization of intellectual property, both domestic and foreign, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. The firm has gained national recognition in the area of Intellectual Property Law and was listed among the “Top Patent Firms” and “Top Trademark Firms” in Intellectual Property Law Today.

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