How to quickly find potential licensing options for patent portfolios – Case study on Aurora Algae

Licensing managers are often called upon to identify potential licensing options for portfolios of patent they might manage. There are a variety of ways of doing this, but perhaps the easiest way, and a very simple starting point, is to start with the patents themselves.

Ambercite has recently developed Cluster Searching, which is a web application for finding the most similar patents to one or more starting patents. This is done using advanced analytics which are applied to patent citations. Each patent citation is an opinion by an expert (being the patent applicant or examiner) that two patents are similar. The advanced analytics within Cluster Searching then combine these opinions to work out which clusters of patents are most similar to the starting patents, irrespective of the keywords or patent class codes that are use. Date filters can also be applied to focus the search. The search can take seconds to run working from the patent numbers themselves.

As an example of this, consider Texan company Aurora Algae, which builds and operates algae farms, as shown below. Aurora claims that its algae can be used to produce pharmaceuticals, health foods, fish feed and biofuels.



Aurora have filed a significant number of patent applications to protect their technology – we estimate that in the key US market they have filed 14 granted patents and 21 patent applications. There are also 9 WO patents and 2 EP patents.

EP, US and WO patents or patent applications are ideal starting patents to be used for Cluster Searching. These can be pasted and copied into a data entry box process, as we have done in the image below, which only shows some of the known Aurora patents. Note the selection of a date filter – in the case we limited the search for similar patents to those filed after November 2007, being the filing date of the earliest Aurora patent we found. We also put an upper limit of the most similar 1000 patents.



The five most similar patents found, out of the 408 returned by this query, are shown here (click on image to get full size version):



You will note a series of columns:

  • Rank shows our overall ranking of results
  • Similarity shows the predicted similarity of the patents found to the seed patents
  • L.P. is short for ‘Licensing Potential’. This value suggests which patents found have the best combination of similarity to the seed patents, and commercial importance of the patent found, to be worthwhile investigating further as a licensing option. Higher values are better, and Licensing Potential values for different patents owned by the same applicant can be added together
  • Number is patent number, Owner and Title are exactly that, and Filed is filing date
  • Citation tells you if the patents found have direct citation connections to the starting patents, or instead are indirect ‘citations of citations’.  Both can be relevant. In this case, we returned 106 direct citations and 302 indirect citations. The highest ranked indirect citation was US8967402, filed by Solazyme for a process to convert algae into biodiesel.
  • Amberscore is our citation based prediction of the commercial importance of a patent. Higher values are better, and anything above 1 is above average.

Of these values, Licensing Potential is perhaps the most efficient way of reviewing the results. If we add the values together (this is easily done by exporting the results table to Excel, and using an Excel function such as Pivot-tables to add together Licensing Potential values), we can see that the following companies are among those with the best Licensing Potential for the Aurora patent portfolio:


Total Licensing Potential from Aurora patents

Number of similar patents found

About the company

Haliae   (Arizona)



“Heliae is an applied life sciences and technology company focused on researching and developing algae and other cutting edge biological platforms for commercial scale production of useful products.”

Solazyme (California)



“Starting with microalgae, the world’s original oil producer, Solazyme creates new, sustainable, high-performance products. These include renewable oils and powerhouse ingredients that serve as the foundation for healthier foods; better home, personal care and industrial products; and more sustainable fuels.”

DuPont Pioneer



Producer of glyphosate resistant seeds – and Aurora has developed glyphosate resistant algae

Genifuel  (Utah)



“Genifuel Corporation produces equipment to make renewable fuels from wet organic material by a highly efficient process known as Hydrothermal Processing (HTP).”

DSM (Netherlands)



Has filed patents for the production of fatty acids from algae

Sapphire Energy (California)



“Sapphire is a venture capital backed company founded in 2007 for the purpose of growing and processing micro-algae into products that serve very large and diverse markets where the unique attributes of algae provide valuable solutions.”

Bionavitas (Washington state)



“Innovations for more efficient growth of algae for use in biofuels, nutraceuticals, and environmental remediation.”

Livefuels (California)



“LiveFuels taps the power of natural aquatic life to produce renewable fuels from algae.”

Algae Systems (US)



“Algae Systems’ technology captures what others discard -untreated wastewater and atmospheric CO2 – and produces renewable fuels and fertilizers, leaving behind only clean water for beneficial reuse”

Pond Biofuels (Ontario)



“Pond Biofuels converts raw smokestack emissions from heavy industry into algal biomass”


As you can see, a range of companies using similar technologies is quickly found. In most cases the links back to the technologies being patented by Aurora Algae are quite obvious.

The link to Du Pont Pioneer is less obvious, but comes because a number of Aurora patents deal with the use of glyphosate to help manage weed growth in algae farms – and Du Pont Pioneer is filing patents and developing technologies for the use of glyphosate to help manage weed growth in agriculture. This example proves how this sort of analysis can easily be used to find ‘parallel’ technologies, i.e. similar technologies that may not be picked up conventional patent searching – but still can be relevant to your licensing objective.


How does this analysis compare to other patent searching techniques?

There are other vendors that offer searching systems that can be used to find licenisng opportunites. In comparison to these other systems, our customers have been telling us that Cluster Searching is:

  • Easy to use – there is no need to spend time building complex queries that require you to try to guess what the most appropriate queries are
  • Easy to learn – There is no need to spend many hours learnng how to use complex multi-screen systems. Instead Cluster Searching simply requires a list of starting patents, which are often to easy find. This in turn can lead to much lower training costs 
  • Cost effective – Ambercite offers corporate subscriptions that are very competitive compare to some other searching systems, and allow unlimited usage within your corporate environments
  • Capable of finding patents missed by other techniques – which comes from being to able to avoid the limitations and risk of keyword searching


Want to try this for yourself?

Ambercite offers free and completely confidential two week trials to Cluster Searching – please contact us to arrange a demonstration and trial. Testimonials for Cluster Searching are found here, including:

“Ambercite Clustering has managed to create a tool to enhance chemical patent due diligence in a remarkable way…revealing art which may cover compounds in discovery within claims of a generic scope.  Congratulations!” – Patent Analyst, global pharmaceutical company, USA


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