Finding Opportunities in Expired Patents
The Signal: Each week thousands of patents in the US and Canada quietly expire. Less than half have ever been commercially exploited, according to the Stanford Law Review, and all offer valuable inspiration in the ongoing search for profitable business opportunities. As our articles on both Hims and Alabaster show, free use can mean big profits. Expired patents are helpful because:
- Each patent can speak to a consumer need, pointing you toward businesses you may not have otherwise considered.
- They can resurface forgotten designs with new potential applications.
- Some patents expire prematurely, offering you an opening against competitors.
Perhaps most importantly, the variety of the patent archive reminds us that consumer needs are varied and endless. Once you’ve seen 100 years of egg carton designs (94 patents in the US alone), you’ll never worry about running out of product ideas again.
Below, we show more specifically how some of this week’s expiring patents could inspire your next business move:
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Don’t press snooze on this opportunity: sleep supplements
The signal: As meditation becomes mainstream, people may be surprised to find that searches for sleep apps double their meditation counterpart. As people invest in getting a better night’s rest, there’s opportunity abound, including physical products like weighted blankets or premium PJs, supplements, popular insomnia drugs having their patents expire, companies paying their employees to sleep better, marketing for sleep specialists, or online sleep education (ex: sleep apnea test has 27k searches per month).
The alternative milk market is getting frothy
The signal: As more people wave goodbye to dairy, alternative milk is slowly taking over; it has already cornered 13% of the market. With the exception of soy milk, all of the alt-milks have been on the up, with some of the newer entrants including hemp milk and pea milk. Other alt-products are getting attention, including cashew cheese, with 18100 searches per month.
Capitalizing on the Airpods market, making more money than Shopify
The signal: Since killing the headphone jack, Apple has graced the world with AirPods, which did an estimated 60m units in 2019. That means AirPods alone are bringing in approx ~$10b in revenue, more than Twitter, Shopify, or Spotify, to name a few popular tech giants. Opportunity lies in Apple opening up SiriOS or the wave of iPhone accessories (including cases, cleaning kits, hooks, and keychains) which have shown “hockey stick” growth alongside their hardware predecessor.
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