In scientific R&D, there is a financial gulf between large and small companies. Larger companies can afford to employ experts in highly specialized roles and have the funds for individual departments dedicated to performing research, drafting patents and ensuring regulatory compliance. However, this is not the case for smaller companies, who are often challenged with a limited workforce and resources.
Avoid risk by understanding the patent landscape
By monitoring the leading indicators of change, smaller companies can predict market needs, as well as select the best time to up- or down-regulate their R&D investment. Global and regional patent trends can also be scrutinized to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors in the identified areas of change, which they can leverage to direct future business strategies.
The European Patent Office (EPO) has published several case studies on how small- and medium-sized enterprises handle their IP strategy and management. In one study, a biotech spin-off from an Austrian university developed a sulfonated galactose polymer derived from red seaweed for its therapeutic effects. The company was successful in bringing the drug to market, having a broad patent portfolio in many countries, and importantly, involving an IP expert early in the R&D process.
Smaller companies may also think that a substance is patentable if a structure search reveals no results. However, patent experts employed by larger companies know that a Markush search is essential for a truly comprehensive understanding of the substance of interest and can reveal a much greater depth of information to consider. If similar substances have been patented, there may be a conflict that inhibits the freedom to operate or the substance’s novelty may be diminished. Additionally, if commercialization of similar substance did not occur, it can be worthwhile to explore why before pursuing an opportunity.
In fact, a small biotech company in Europe nearly fell into this trap. When performing a structure search on a potentially novel substance, they found no matching results—indicating that it was indeed novel, never having been publicly disclosed. However, a Markush search of the structure revealed nine prior publications, one of which described a substance with very similar pharmacological activity and legal status suggesting that it had been withdrawn from further exploitation. Despite the small biotech’s substance being novel, other factors indicated that a patent may not have been as lucrative as originally thought.
Stay on the fast track with up-to-date information
Research scientists in smaller companies are often charged with taking on tasks across the entire R&D process, including intellectual property and compliance. Without access to the right information and the guidance of experts, smaller companies face serious risks and missed opportunities. High-quality information resources are a critical investment that can help fill these gaps and deliver ROI through increased efficiency and realized opportunities.
With the access to high quality information resources, smaller companies can launch R&D efforts with confidence by knowing what related patents already exist, who are their potential competitors and collaborators and how patents in these areas are written. If an active patent is uncovered during their research, they can consult with a patent attorney to determine if they should abandon the idea before time and resources have been invested or innovate in new areas that are not yet patented. Think of the savings that this alone can bring to a small research company!
Small organizations can boost the productivity of their limited R&D team by giving their scientists access to reliable, accurate and comprehensive scientific information. Keeping up-to-date with the most recent scientific literature allows these companies to compete with the bigger R&D businesses by helping them understand market trends, discover new areas of research and find the most efficient approaches.
Ease the burden of regulatory research
Smaller companies must also consider aspects of regulatory compliance. However, constantly changing regulations and expanding global markets make it challenging to stay on top of the requirements.
Scientists at smaller companies often bear the burden of regulatory compliance research. They must know which international regulatory inventories and lists their products appear and whether similar products are already listed, where their products can be shipped or sold and the classification, labeling and packaging requirements for exporting.
For example, a spin-off company from the University of Cologne in Germany is researching replacements for polyfluorcarbons as fire extinguishing agents at airports. Although airplane fires are rare, it is very costly to decontaminate the soil below the area where these compounds have been applied. The company found that substances based on a silane-containing sugar-like structure have the same efficacy without the high environmental impact. Though this innovation is exciting, once commercialized and production exceeds one tonne per year, the substances must be registered with the European Chemicals Agency, requiring significant work and resources for a small company.
To compete with larger companies, look to CAS solutions
Achieving growth can be difficult for small to medium R&D companies in a marketplace where large businesses dominate. It is important that they understand the complexities of research, patent law and compliance regulations to have a competitive edge. Without the benefit of having in-house expert opinion, smaller companies should look to other sources of information and utilize innovative solutions to gain as much knowledge as possible.
Research solutions like SciFindern and NCITM Global are ideal for applications such as these. SciFindern not only accelerates research by providing actionable results, such as step-by-step synthetic methods, but it also points you directly to hard to find chemistry in patents. NCI Global is a single resource for up-to-date regulatory information on hundreds of thousands of substances regulated worldwide, with coverage of nearly 150 international regulatory inventories and lists. For expert IP searches and market landscape analytics, CAS Knowledge Services has the talent to dig deep and deliver actionable answers.
For more information on how CAS can help small to medium companies gain a competitive edge, contact us today.