What Kind of Innovation is taking place in Insurance Sector? – A Patent Perspective

If you are not innovating, you are planning your exit- Paul Perreault

We live in an era of stifling competition where the only factor that sets apart the top players from the rest is innovation. Innovation is one of the predominant factors that decide the success of an organization. In this era where there are multiple vendors offering the same set of services, it has become paramount for organizations to invest in innovation, lest they want to be out of the business.

With the exponential growth of technology in the past few centuries, even the nichest among the niche areas are expected to have a technological intervention, tailoring the field to keep up with the latest technological trends.

One among those areas where technology spilled its magic dust is insurance sector. From paper to paperless, handwriting authentication to digital authentication systems, visiting-the-insurance-office-a gazillion-times to having-all-the-information-in-your-smartphone-a-click-away – the insurance industry has embraced innovation to enrich lives and simplify things.

Technology’s changing our lives every day. Insurance covers a majority of objects in and around us. This left us to wonder how technology was playing its due part in the insurance sector. What kind of disruptive/incremental innovation was taking place in the insurance sector, harvesting the current technological trends?

To quench our curiosity, we decided to analyze the innovative measures of the top 50 insurance brands based on brand value.

Here’s what we found:

Investing in Innovation – Everyone is doing it

Our analysis revealed that more than 40 of these companies invested their assets towards innovative measures, be it in the form of in-house R&D, Partnerships, alliances or launching accelerators and incubators dedicated to innovative measures.

Insurance companies kept up with the trends in technology and a majority of them had already been a part of the digital revolution by bringing their processes online. But was that it?

Fortunately No.

Getting systems on the online platform was just the beginning. The insurance sector companies are embracing the technological intervention and innovating in areas, keeping abreast with the progress in technology. Be it in the form of joining the IOT race, embracing big data, leveraging artificial intelligence, investing in drones or being a part of Blockchain revolution, the insurance sector companies are leaving no technologies untouched.

Here are a few key observations from our analysis of innovative measures of these top 50 insurance corporations:

  • Telematics, IOT and analytics are the areas which primarily experienced the highest innovation rate.
  • 8 out of 50 companies had at least one app dedicated to analyzing the driving performance of a person. TripSense, Drivewise, MyRate and GoodRide are few among them.
  • Programs like SmartHome and GoodHome are proof of the fact that property insurance companies leverage the IOT technology to monitor homes, while ensuring appropriate insurance measures once an alarm goes off.
  • Ping An Insurance leads the Chinese markets in innovative efforts. From mining social data to fostering digital models, from embracing technological solutions for better analytics to insuring against loss of virtual properties in games, Ping An is second to none when the discussion is on innovation.
  • Drones have caught the fancy of Insurance sector companies and these UAVs are leveraged to survey everything, ranging from disaster-stricken areas to monitoring agricultural lands, for risk assessment and faster claim handling.
  • Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin earned the interest of Insurance sector too. In collaboration with three other companies, Swiss life Group invested in a blockchain-centric venture in an attempt towards a smart contracting platform.

Analytics plays an important role in the majority of these companies, be it decision-making based on vehicular data, behavior characterization based on social data or customer targeting based on petabytes of smart big data. The insurance sector companies leverage analytics to improve insurance-related processes.

Do Insurance companies have Patents?

After we touched upon the innovative measures of these insurance sector companies, the IP professional within made us ponder-

“What about protection? Did these companies take enough steps to protect the R&D dollars spent on innovation? Do these companies have patents?”

Did you know: Innovation and Protection constitute two of three pillars for the success of any organization. Wondering what the third pillar is? Find out here- Innotecting- The recipe to an organization’s success.

We analyzed the patent portfolios of each of these 50 companies to find the answers to our questions. The findings were, as a matter of fact, truly surprising and inconsistent with the innovation measure statistics.

The analysis revealed that out of 50, 21 companies didn’t file even a single patent application. Surprisingly, out of these 21 non-filing organizations, 8 of them were based out of and operated in China.

Our innovation measures analysis revealed satisfactory innovative measures from Chinese corporations while Ping An ranked at the top of the list. Then, what could be the reason behind the lack of patent filing activity by Chinese companies?

Upon digging further, we found that the reason behind the lack of patent protection for the innovative measures of the Chinese insurance companies owes to the difficulty of getting insurance-related patents granted. With strict laws, it is very difficult to get a life/health-related patent granted, which is a plausible explanation for the lack of patenting activity by Chinese insurance organizations.

The non-patent filing companies also included three Asian companies while eight European companies made to the list. The absence of patent filing activity might have multiple reasons ranging from non-patentable subject matter to the lack of need of protecting their innovation. Whatever might be the reason, it would suffice to say that unlike innovation, protection of assets is the least thought about concept for some companies within the insurance sector.

Insurance companies have patents! Tell me more…

Fortunately, the majority of insurance sector companies believe that

“Innovation without protection is Philanthropy”.

Our analysis revealed that 29 out of 50 companies invested assets towards protecting their innovative measures.

But then it leaves us to question- For which kind of innovations was protection sought?  Which arena had the most patents filed in? Which countries were sought for protection? Who had the largest number of patents?

PS: We had the exact same questions in mind a while ago related to the domain of Digital Oil Fields. Hell bent on understanding the innovation in the DOF technology, we conducted a study and found some brilliant insights. Written originally as a series of four articles, we have put together the insights and findings from the study in the form of a report for your ease of access- You can download a copy of the report here.

Finding answers was relatively easy as we embarked on the search to find the role of Patents within these companies.

What exactly these patents protect?

The insurance sector’s innovation measures data revealed that every trending technology had been explored by these companies and were leveraged to make processes better.

But how many of these innovative measures were actually protected by means of patenting activity?

Not many.

Though the innovative measures ranged across various technologies, the patent filing data revealed that Telematics and Analytics were the prominent areas protection was sought after. The majority of patents (449 to be precise) were filed under CPC classification G06Q40/08, a class dedicated to protecting core insurance patents.

Further, Investment, Banking, and  Accounting were the next core areas in which most of these patents were filed, which was a plausible move considering the domain in question.

The interesting fact to note here was that big companies like Allstate realized the value of patents and filed multiple patents to prevent its flagship products from being copied. For instance, they filed 15 applications and had 11 patents under the G07C5 category, the class primarily responsible for registering or indicating vehicular data to protect the features of its flagship products: DriveWise and GoodRide.

The chart below reveals the top 12 categories in which the patents were classified. It should be noted that a patent may be classified in more than one category and the numbers were deduced accordingly.


Insurance Companies and Innovation 1

The Potential Markets and Top Players in Insurance Sector

Geographical patent filing data can reveal a lot of insights regarding the markets of interest for an organization based on the patenting activity. In the case of insurance sector, the markets of interest are the countries these companies operate in.

A look at the patent filing data revealed that 48% of these companies filed at least one world application, hinting at the fact that companies were taking enough steps to not just protect their innovation, but protecting their innovations at all the right places.

Our study also revealed that the majority of the patent applications were filed in the US followed by Japan. It was interesting to note that 26 out of 29 companies had filed at least one patent application in the US, whereas 11 out of 29 had at least one Japanese patent application.

So who are the major filers in each of these markets?

The analysis of the applications filed from 1996- till date revealed that Hartford was the clear winner in the US market after scoring 146 grants while having 232 pending applications. Allstate is the most proactive at filing patents while enjoying a high grant rate in the US, whereas European organization Swiss filed 99 applications in US out of which it scored 49 grants.

Insurance Companies and Innovation 2

Now that we know the top filers in the US, it is time to find out the top notch Japanese filers. Unlike the US where companies from diverse nations conduct business, innovate and protect, the Japanese Patent office largely received patent applications from the companies that were based out of and operated in Japan.

Insurance Companies and Innovation 3

Tokio Marine filed the highest number of applications while MS&AD had the highest number of granted patents. It should be noted that all of these Japanese organizations filed at least 1 patent application in the US except Dai-Ichi and Japan Post Insurance, whose protection measures are focused solely on the Japanese market.

The litigation landscape in Insurance Sector

Now that we know the top filing geographies and the top players in each of these markets, it is time to answer an unresolved query- How often do these companies indulge in patent battles? Were there mere patent battles or frivolous patent wars too?

The analysis of the litigation behavior of these 50 organizations revealed that merely 5 companies had been in litigation as a plaintiff whereas 16 of them had played the role of the defendant in at least one litigation. Allstate faced the highest number of lawsuits, serving as a defendant for 37 litigation campaigns.

One interesting fact to note here is that majority of these defendants(with hundred others) were targeted for infringing one single patent- US 5412730 titled Encrypted data transmission system employing means for randomly altering the encryption keys, by a patent troll TQP development LLC. Though the patent is being challenged at Patent Trial and Appeal board currently, it will be worth watching whether any of these companies would be relieved of this frivolous lawsuit or not.

Insurance Companies and Innovation 4

Having a look at the litigation landscape from a plaintiff’s view, it made us ponder – How good were the chances of being involved in a litigation? How good were the chances of a patent being infringed by someone?

To find the answer, we evaluated the litigation probability of the patents of the top US filers. The results revealed that the patent with the highest litigation probability was US8489063 with a 51.6% probability of undergoing litigation.

Compared to other domains, the litigation score was pretty low, hinting the reason behind the number of lawsuits raged as a plaintiff.

Though Innovation and protection are given preference by the majority of these corporations, litigation will continue to remain in the shadows, unless the innovation rate in the insurance sector grows at a rate such that it would get difficult for products to not overlap on patents, like many technological fields in existence.

But that’s a long way down the lane.

Conclusion:

At the moment, the Insurance sector is growing at a good pace while embracing innovation. We strongly believe that Insurance companies can easily overcome the traditional thought process that patents cannot be filed in our domain.

Based on our study, we found that there is a lot of space for innovation and patenting in this domain. This piece of note, if taken heed, our prediction is that in the near future, there would emerge a company that would not just disrupt this sector by applying innovation at every stage of the Insurance life cycle, but also figure out a way to patent it.

PPS: Never found a Reason good enough to build a high-quality patent portfolio? We’ll give you 4. In this not-so-old post, we have listed four lucrative reasons why you should build a high-quality patent portfolio. You can read it here- The need for building a high-quality patent portfolio.

Authored By: Anjali Chopra, Analyst, Market Research in collaboration with Deepika Kaushal, Manager, Patent Landscape.

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