Tech Transfer University Reporter

The Three Pillars of Invention Analysis

By Debi Melillo
Published: May 20th, 2014

There are three main elements to making an invention a commercially viable project, and that invention needs to be strong in all three of these in order to succeed.  First, the technology has to be developable and have limited hurdles to development in terms of time, money, and regulation. Second, the patent needs to be strong, defensible, and enforceable.  And third, the invention must be targeting a compelling market that can be accessed.  A hurdle in any one of these domains can act as a significant barrier and even prevent commercialization.

Dr. Michael Manion recently presented a critically acclaimed webinar for Technology Transfer Tactics that helps technology managers to identify where those hurdles may be and how to sidestep them upon discovery. Read on for a small snippet of what he revealed during his presentation. CLICK HERE for more information on ordering the full recorded program, including a free sample of his Invention Evaluator tool as well as his 35-slide PowerPoint presentation. 


Quite often, we take an invention disclosure and assume that that’s what the invention is.  But the important first step in an analysis of an invention is to take the invention disclosure and describe what the essence of the invention is in your own words. 

This is important to the rest of the process, because this is where the analysts start to use their own language and development strategies for identifying literature, and patents, and so forth down in subsequent sections that you wouldn’t identify if you were using the same language as the inventor.  Part of the value of an analysis is providing objectivity, and this really begins with a robust description of what the essence of the technology is.  Inventions can be one or multiple parts of these things: it can be a material, a component, a device, a method, or a service, or it can be a combination of these. Break out what the features and the benefits are.

Identify hurdles.  The two main hurdles towards technical development of an invention are the regulatory and development hurdles. Identify those early on and place where the technology is within that landscape.


So who’s filing?  Are they large multinational companies, or are they predominantly university or independent inventors, indicating that it might be a very early stage technology, for example?  If it’s a large multinational and it’s dominated and very consolidated in terms of filing activity, there might be a maturing technology.  You can use proprietary software programs to give you the trends in filing activity over the last decade as well, so you can start to see some trends — or make some inferences about the filing activity on that broader level to give you a snapshot of what’s happening in that technology landscape.  And then it’s important for the analysts to take that information, and summarize it, and make inferences about it so that it’s not just a pretty picture; it actually gives you some meaningful information to use on whether to move forward with the patenting process.


The market analysis follows and identifies what the opportunities are for that particular invention, and this might be more than one.  In that case you really want to identify what the primary opportunity might be like.  Once you’ve identified that opportunity, then look at what the industry is doing, what it looks like, what trends there might be, and so forth to get a sense of whether there is a market opportunity.  If there is, then you need to understand how you can compete. Understanding what the competitive landscape is for that industry and particularly for that opportunity is really important as well — and to bring it all together into a SWOT analysis to summarize the strengths, the weaknesses, the opportunities, and the threats for the invention. 

commercial opportunity

SWOT analysis is an MBA-focused tool that is useful to pool all this information together.  It looks at the strengths, the weaknesses, the opportunities, and the threats.  So the strengths and the weaknesses are intrinsic attributes that are either positive or negative, and this is focused on the market assessment, really pulling together a lot of the elements in the analysis in terms of the IP analysis and the technology analysis as well.  So intrinsically, what are the strengths and the weaknesses?  What’s good about the technology?  What’s potentially a challenge?  And then the opportunities and threats are externalities: so what’s happening in the industry?  Is it receptive to disruption?  Is it dominated by large multi-nationals that have a strangle hold over the industry?  Are there macro economic sectors?  Are there drivers in particular market segments that might be interesting? 

Pooling that all together into this SWOT analysis is a useful way to summarize the commercial viability of a technology.  It brings together all those hurdles, identifies what needs to be addressed in order to move a project forward, and where the opportunities may lie.

To get the full program, along with access to a free sample of Dr. Manion’s Invention Evaluator tool as well as his 35-slide PowerPoint presentation, CLICK HERE.  

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