Two years ago a group of NAATBatt member companies undertook an interesting project. Working with IP Checkups, a Berkeley, California-based consulting firm that specializes in patent-based market intelligence, the NAATBatt members categorized advanced battery technology and markets into a number of segments corresponding to general areas of relevance to industry.

Using the categories provided by NAATBatt, IP Checkups analyze trends in patent grants and applications within each of those categories.  This analysis provides NAATBatt members with actionable, patent-based intelligence about what was really going on in the industry and where the largest players in it were really making their bets.  The resulting database, known as the ABC PatentEdge™, exists today and is continuously updated by IP Checkups.  NAATBatt publishes a quarterly summary of developments in the database on the Members Only section of its website.  Interested NAATBatt members may purchase access to the full ABC PatentEdge™ database from IP Checkups at a discount.

Patent-based market intelligence is an interesting approach to market research reports.  The research report market is familiar to everyone doing business in the advanced battery industry.  Every day the e-mail boxes of the industry are bombarded with offers from research firms offer reports for sale purporting to summarize some aspect or another of what is going on in the industry.  The reports are usually produced by publishers who hire bright young researchers to review corporate press releases and annual reports, conduct a series of telephone interviews, and write-up the information they receive into a report.  Some of the reports are quite good; others are not as good.  But they all pull largely from the same sources.

Patent-based market intelligence is different.  Rather than examine subjective information voluntarily disclosed by the companies on which the reports are focused, patent-based market intelligence takes a “big data” approach, examining patents applied for by and granted to employees of those companies and analyzing the subjects and focus of those patents.  The logic of this approach is simple:  Large companies generally spend about $100,000 per patent per jurisdiction to develop, file, register and renew that patent over its 20 year life span.  By identifying concentrations and trends in the patent filings of a certain company, or of multiple companies, an analyst can develop a more accurate, objective picture of where a company is really making its investments and where a market is most likely to go.

The ABC PatentEdge™ report for 1Q 2015, recently posted on the Members Only section of the NAATBatt website, provides a good example of how patent-based market intelligence can predict important developments in the market.  Each quarterly report includes a special focus on one particular section of the advanced battery market.  The 1Q 2015 report focused on patents related to grid storage of electricity.  This was a particularly timely focus, given that the 25thAnnual Meeting of the Electricity Storage Association just concluded last week in Dallas.

I was in Dallas last week for the ESA meeting, as were most of the companies that are generally considered to be the leaders in the grid storage business.  One of the companies that was not there at all was Johnson Controls, Inc.  This was not much of a surprise.  Johnson Controls has never held itself out as seriously interested in grid storage, though its background in building energy management systems might provide it with a logical way to enter that business if it chooses to do so.

The data contained in the 1Q 2015 ABC PatentEdge™ report, however, tells a different story.  During the first quarter of 2015, IP Checkups calculates that there were 286 patent applications filed worldwide on innovations relating to grid storage.  Of those applications, Johnson Controls filed 45, representing 16% of worldwide patent applications in that category.  LG Chem was next with 10.  The 45 applications filed by Johnson Controls may indicate that it has recently decided to enter the grid storage business in earnest.  The 45 application filings represent a 2150% increase over grid storage-related patent applications filed by Johnson Controls during 4Q 2014 and a year-over-year increase of 800%.

There is no certainty, of course, as to what this means.  Johnson Controls has made no public announcement with respect to its entry into the grid storage business and the data compiled by IP Checkups may prove to be misleading.  But a new battery manufacturer with a healthy balance sheet coming into the market for grid storage would raise some eyebrows and could have a major impact on the market.  Other participants in the grid storage business should watch closely.

The quarterly ABC PatentEdge™ report is just one way that NAATBatt International is working to bring value to its members.  For the best market intelligence and the latest information about new electrochemical energy storage technology, become a NAATBatt member and take advantage of our insights and resources.

I look forward to seeing all of our members during the members-only tour of the XALT Energy lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Midland, Michigan on July 30.  This fascinating tour will be followed by a free members-only networking dinner.  If your company is not already a member of NAATBatt, it really should join soon.