Han Santos leverages PatentSight to rapidly deliver "first cut" data...
...to quickly guide clients with go/no-go decisions
Based in Seattle, Han Santos is a boutique specialty law firm specializing in matters related to intellectual property, business transactions and technology law. Founded in 2013, the firm provides an alternative to large, traditional law firms by offering world-class, cost-effective solutions and takes a personal, value-oriented approach to its services. Han Santos helps its clients advance their business objectives by protecting, maximizing and leveraging their IP assets, both in the US and globally. Its clients range from emerging startups to multinational corporations. Its team of legal and technical experts includes professionals with master’s degrees in technical fields and with many years’ experience working in the high-tech industry, giving them a deep understanding of a broad range of technologies.
It was their experience working at large technology companies that gave Pat Santos and Andy Han, who met as University of Washington freshmen, the idea for a new type of legal services firm: one that would offer clients outside counsel but with all the strategic, value-oriented approaches offered by general counsel. “You can think of us as a bunch of attorneys that were in-house that went to outside counsel,” says Santos. “Usually, it’s the other way around.”
When Santos and Han launched their firm in 2013, the world was slowly emerging from a two-year downturn, with economists predicting that growth in developed economies would remain weak for some time to come.
For Han Santos, however, the business landscape offered plenty of opportunities. “The economy had it’s ups and down,” recalls Santos, who oversees the firm’s growth. “But the challenges were the same: How do you get value and measurable business advantage out of your intellectual property?”
Helping clients do this is the mission of Han Santos. And a key line of work for the firm is providing the data analysis and insights on IP needed by companies engaging in due diligence ahead of a merger or acquisition.
Santos highlights three strategies for which companies are seeking data and analysis when looking to buy or merge with their competitors: defensive, offensive, and standards-driven.
In a defensive strategy, companies can strengthen their position in the event of an infringement suit by building a portfolio that includes patents on technologies or inventions that are close to or complementary to their products and services. “It means establishing that there’s no risk that the very reason you want to buy the company will be forced off because someone’s going to see you for patent infringement,” explains Santos.
An offensive portfolio strategy is one in which companies file patents on ideas and technologies that they believe their competitors may develop in the future. “Competitors may try to restrict or sue you, so it’s good to have assets to use for counter claims,” says Santos.
Meanwhile, companies that want to push for the development of standards on products, services, or processes need to build patent pools that are sufficiently large to give them a seat at the table.
All three strategies have one thing in common: They require accurate patent analysis that can identify areas in which new technologies might be emerging and that provides an accurate picture of the global landscape of competitive patent portfolios. And when gathering and analyzing this data for clients during M&A activity, speed is of the essence.
Rising demands for a rapid turnaround
In a business environment where competition is increasingly intense, firms like Han Santos are under pressure to deliver answers to their clients that are detailed and analytical but that also land on their clients’ desks extremely rapidly.
“When the amounts of money we’re talking about are being thrown around, there’s usually stress on the part of the client,” says Santos. “The longer they wait for an answer, the more stressed they are.” This, he adds, does not mean firms can allow standards to slip or their approaches to become less rigorous.
Given this high-stakes business environment, the firm needed a way to rapidly deliver what Richard Dodson calls a “first cut”—that is, identifying enough high-value, impactful patents to hand over a reasonably representative sample set to a smaller team of attorneys for analysis.
“When we talk about making use of technology, what we’re really saying is that we’re freeing up lawyers to do the more strategic, analytical, higher-value work.”
“In the two weeks you have, when you’re up against it to come up with go/no-go decisions, you need to makes some judgments on the strengths and weakness of the target compared to this vast competitive landscape,” says Dodson, who is a patent analyst and agent at Han Santos.
“And at times we’ve been in a pitch where we needed to do a 24-hour turnaround,” adds Santos. Delivering patent due diligence in such short periods of time is not for the faint hearted.
“Some of these competitive spaces are very large, with portfolios of 20,000 or 50,000 patents,” explains Dodson. “And the question is how can we give meaningful analysis on such a large space.”
The power of data-driven analytics
The answer, for Han Santos, has been to turn to technology. And working with PatentSight has enabled the firm to find a way of making sense of extremely large volumes of patent data in short periods of time. This means it can deliver data-driven insights to guide clients’ when deadlines are tight.
By using PatentSight’s Patent Asset Index—a measure of global technological strength and innovation—Han Santos can quickly gain insights into the relative quality of patents, whether across entire technology fields or in companies that are M&A targets. With a database that is updated weekly, users can monitor changes in the tech landscape and spot disruptive innovations early on.
Critically, PatentSight enables Han Santos to do this cost effectively. “Due diligence is expensive,” says Santos. Essentially you need a small army of lawyers, all of them billing away. But with PatentSight, we can come up with a first approximation really quickly to help guide go/no-go decisions. It’s not the final say but at least the client can get initial advice based on data.”
By enabling it to uncover potential risks, PatentSight also helps Han Santos give its clients a substantial negotiating advantage during deal making, often resulting in lower acquisition prices.
PatentSight's open data approach enables Han Santos to flexibly utilize the data...
...to refine analyses, get attorney input and easily support informed decision making for their clients.
Richard Dodson highlights one PatentSight tool that the firm finds particularly useful: Its Tech Clusters matrix, which maps the highest-scoring clusters of technologies for patent owners across a given industry. “That gives us a really nice first cut that doesn’t depend on the World Intellectual Property Organization classifications, which are of interest to patent examiners but by and large are not useful for our purposes.”
For Dodson, what also stands out is the flexibility that comes with PatentSight’s open data approach, allowing users to manipulate the data in the way that is appropriate for the specific task in hand.
“We can export results, refine our analyses with spreadsheets and other tools, get attorney input and, with that analysis, go back into PatentSight to create presentations incorporating the final data. That’s a philosophy that is uncommon among tool creators—and yet it’s so valuable.”
For a firm such as Han Santos, success can be partly measured in dollars. And in 2021 using PatentSight for general comparable company analysis resulted in $700 million in acquisitions for its clients. Success can also be measured in risks avoided, and in some cases, PatentSight analysis has led to Han Santos advising clients to walk away from a deal.
However, Santos likes to evaluate success more broadly. “A key metric is revenue, but we also look at the quality of the clients,” he says. “In other words, are they large enough that they have complex issues? Because strategic work is where the real value is.”
PatentSight - A powerful data collection tool
With a powerful data collection technology tool at its fingertips, Han Santos can deploy its people skills where it really matters. “We’re able to get the raw data quickly so we can spend more time on the analysis and on giving value to the clients,” says Dodson.
This means Han Santos can go beyond a role as an external advisor to becoming a true partner in deal making and negotiations, giving clients the ability to factor risk and IP value into their M&A strategies.
And of course, Han Santos has one other highly tangible way of measuring the return on its investment in PatentSight: repeat business.