Freemium is a business model by which a proprietary product or service (typically a digital offering such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for advanced features, functionality, or virtual goods. The word “freemium” is a portmanteau neologism combining the two aspects of the business model: “free” and “premium”.
Editor’s Note – Speaking of portmanteau’s, the author has a special affinity for these since the title of this blog, Patinformatics, is also a portmanteau neologism, but we digress.
Evernote, the popular, cloud based, note keeping service, provides an example of the application of this. They offer a free version but charge users for premium extras like additional storage, the use of offline notebooks and collaboration with other users.
In the world of patent information, it is typical to find organizations employing either the free, or premium, business model, but unusual to see a company going the freemium route. PatentInspiration an online patent search and analysis tool, created by AULIVE Software NV, has taken this approach.
As part of the free service, users can search using the DOCDB database, from the EPO (European Patent Office), which is the data source behind PatentInspiration. The DOCDB database contains bibliographic data from over 90 countries, including titles, abstracts, applicants, inventors, citations, literature citations, code classifications and family information.
Searching is provided using one of the following methods:
- Simple search – enter a term or phrase in the search box on the PatentInspiration homepage.
- Advanced search – create different filter lines and use Boolean operators to easily exclude or add patents for any kind of search. On each filter, you can search selectively on Applicants, Keywords, Inventors, Patent Codes and Patent Numbers.
The image below shows the Results page, including the ability to refine, or filter, the results using the faceted navigation elements on the left-side of the screen.
Once a collection is identified, the system will prompt the user to begin analyzing them. This is easily accomplished by clicking on the analysis options provided on the left-hand side of the window. Once an analysis is clicked on it is added to the report frame on the right side of the window, as can be seen in the image below:
The analysis collection includes standard items, such as a patent documents per year chart (Activity), and several co-occurrence bubble charts comparing classification code usage, and applicants, over time (Codes vs. time, for instance). There are also a few exotic visualizations, such as the Domain visualization that looks at classification codes but segments them by application.
A useful feature of all the analytics is that each visualization is interactive, allowing the user to quickly zoom in on data, or modify their search filter. For example, in an Activity analysis, clicking on the bar corresponding to a given year will immediately open all patent hits for that year.
So while there is considerable functionality available to users of the free service, PatentInspiration also offers three subscription plans: Basic (99€/month), Team (199€/month) and Enterprise (499€/month).
Signing up for the premium services provides users with the following advantages over free usage:
- Watermark-free patent images
- Use of the more advanced analyses
- Saving of reports (unsaved reports are removed after 48 hours)
- Sharing of reports
- Public sharing (with everyone by sending the URL)
- Team sharing (with every member of your team)
- Private sharing (with selected users)
- Use of alerts to keep track of specific technologies/companies/…
- Custom export template for PowerPoint export
- Access to user statistics of accounts
- Export of all patents to Excel & PowerPoint (free users can export the first 10 patents)
- Export of analyses to PowerPoint (not allowed for free users)
Looking at the list of premium options, it is easy to see how the PatentInspiration offering can be compared to Evernote, and other, perhaps more familiar, SaaS services. Purchasing premium access provides users with the ability to share items, and gain access to additional capabilities, as seen with other freemium applications.
CREAX has made a sample report on nanotechnology available, in addition to the free offering, to allow users to interact with some of the other analysis functions that are provided with the premium service. The image below shows the complete list of twenty-two visualizations that come with the premium version.
Freemium services provide a nice way for new users to get accustomed to a service, and determine its value, before deciding whether they want to spend money on additional features. In the case of PatentInspiration, the premium features, especially the link and connection visualizations, look as if they could be valuable to users beyond what they can accomplish with the free version. It is also interesting to see new ideas on offering services, borrowed from main-stream, wide-spread applications in the wider SaaS environment, being applied to the patent information space.