Philips’ sleep & snoring solutions—Electronics & healthcare IP analysis
Snoring affects about half of men and 25 percent of women—most of whom are aged 50 or older. It can lead to reduced productivity in the day time, stressed relationships and the added health risk is sleep apnoea. As the NHS describe:
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.
This may lead to regularly interrupted sleep, which can have a big impact on quality of life and increases the risk of developing certain conditions.
I’m still over a decade away from 50, but I snore. Loudly. At least that’s what I’m told. Aside from doctoral advice to stop drinking alcohol and lose weight, the most common high-street solutions come in the way of mouthguards, nasal strips, pillows and throat sprays. All of which have their limitations.
Looking at Google trends we can see a consistent annual wave of searches relating to snoring. Which makes it clear that a lot of people are searching for a snoring cure. And each year that search keeps growing.
What if you could reduce snoring and sleep apnoea problems for the general populace? That would be a tech trend worth waking up for.
A patent search for international patent classification (IPC) code A61F5/56—Devices for preventing snoring—reveals over 300 patent applications for snoring solutions in 2016 (there’s likely to be more patents published for 2016 over the next 10 months too). As you can see the general trend for solutions is rising—over the last 20 years, annual filing has nearly quadrupled.
There is an undercurrent of global patenting activity, however the majority of filing is occurring in the US and China.
Philips is one of the world’s leading technology companies—with three main divisions: electronics, healthcare and lighting—and it’s hot on the trail for snoring and sleep apnoea solutions.
Philips’ website reveals plenty of current applications of this technology—marketed as the Dream Family. DreamWear is a sleep apnoea mask that Philips’ claims “even looks appealing when you put it on”. DreamStation is a ‘positive airway pressure therapy device’ and the DreamMapper self-management app helps sleep therapy users track their progress.
Anyway, this isn’t an advert for Philips’ products, so let’s get back to the analytics.
Philips, has 214 worldwide patent applications under IPC code A61F5/56. Once grouped up, this becomes 80 simple patent families—in a patent portfolio worth $41 million.
And a good chunk of those patents appear to have been acquired from, the now dissolved, Apneon—a sleep apnoea specialist—in 2008. This indicates that Philips has been developing sleep solutions for at least 10 years.
If we focus on keywords mentioned in Philips’ patents we can determine some of the chief topics and subtopics referred to.
Magnetic Force is mentioned in 22 patents and 7 times in relation to implantation. Other core topics include ‘bone anchors’, and ‘tissue regions’.
Philips’ most valuable patent—BRPI1007102A2 - Method and device for reducing snore annoyances—is an invention that produces a monotonous snoring sound to reduce the chances of waking fellow bedfellows sharing with a snorer.
But Philips isn’t alone in the search for snore solutions.
The main competition in terms of patenting volume comes from Chinese inventing duo Zhou Xing and Xiangmin Zhang (ZX/XZ). Closely behind them, but with a much more valuable portfolio is Resmed.
But by looking at the filing locations it seems that ZX/XZ are dominating the market in China.
And if we plot all three on a technology landscape we can see that ZX/XZ’s patents are falling into similar territory to Philips—while Resmed is operating in a very different part of the territory. Could Philips and ZX/XZ combine to become a global super power?
And if you want to avoid a very oversaturated area of tech I would steer clear of developing anti-snoring pillows—there are currently 1,176 patents in this small space.
But it isn’t all about electronics. Philips’ latest published patent is for a Glossoplasty—a tongue implant to help keep the airway clear for a snorer.
Which fortunately shows that Philips is clearly pioneering sleep solutions—while much of the competition is still dozily patenting those pillows.
- How to use patent data at every stage of the R&D life cycle
- How patent data can be used to unlock new opportunities
- How to use patent data to assess the patentability of your invention