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Know Your Enemies: The Importance of Competitor Analysis

In today’s knowledge-based economy, virtually any business will benefit from understanding competitors’ product innovations and the true value of their patent portfolios. In fact, to be successful in today’s marketplace requires solid understanding of competitive intellectual property strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) that exist.

If you’re a business operating in a highly competitive marketplace or technology segment, conducting a comprehensive and accurate SWOT analysis of competitors who have IP in your space is critical for identifying potential vulnerabilities as well as opportunities. This systematic, legal collection and analysis of competitive SWOT information using competitor IP analysis is a rapidly-growing field known as competitive intelligence (CI) and it is valuable for not only discovering the intentions of competitors, but identifying potential partners as well.

When analyzing any technological development, the first real evidence of a new product or process is often a published patent document such as a patent application. Patents and other forms of IP are often good indicators of technological areas and innovations in which competitors are interested and involved.

Much like prey being tracked in the wild, patents leave a trail that can be tracked. CI uses patent data to create a picture of a competitor’s activities and put them in a larger context within the marketplace. Sophisticated competitor analysis can follow the trail of a patent, or group of patents, segmenting them into specific technology sectors and identifying the spaces in which the competitor has a strong or weak position, where the competitor is currently focusing R&D efforts, and how it might impact your business. Competitive analysis is not so much about comparing products or technologies as it is about assessing competitive strengths and weaknesses.

Patent CI essentially provides you with the knowledge of where your competitors have been, where they are currently, and where they’re headed. Competitor analysis can reveal:
  • The most prolific inventors in your space
  • The competitions’ most recent patents and patent applications
  • Competitors’ most active technological areas
  • The countries in which the competition most often seeks patent protection for their inventions
  • Which patents have expired or been reassigned to other companies or individuals
  • What competitive patent applications are pending at which patent offices

By utilizing competitor analysis tools to obtain information about important competitors and using that information to predict their behavior you can formulate a more effectiveIP strategy to protect your existing revenue streams and to launch new product and revenue initiatives.

Try Our Patent Analytics Tools

Gaining a Business Advantage Through IP Analysis

The amount of patent data available for analysis has grown exponentially in just the past few years, and for good reason. Advances in data mining technology and techniques as well as the increasingly rapid development of new technologies in general have fueled Intellectual Property (IP) sales and licensing activities in virtually every industry, domestically and internationally.

With these growing volumes of available patent information, patent search and analysis has become a crucial tool for companies to strengthen and grow their businesses and gain a competitive advantage. The job of searching, finding, organizing, and analyzing all this data is increasingly falling to automated analytical tools. Sophisticated algorithms are used to power data mining and visualization techniques such as our proprietary interactive patent mapping. This can provide dynamic, virtually real-time visualizations of the relationships between patents and developing technological trends, both of which can provide valuable insights for creating IP-based business and competitive strategies.

Comprehensive IP analysis is an ideal way to gather business information and intelligence that can help businesses discover:
  • Empty technological space ripe for innovation
  • Existing portfolio gaps
  • Strengths and weaknesses in competitive IP
  • Technology “infringements”
  • Litigation activities
  • Patent portfolio status of merger or acquisition targets to help determine fit
  • IP vulnerabilities that need to be addressed
In fact, failure to employ intellectual property analytics can put a business at substantial risk. Embarking on a significant product development project or introducing new products into an existing marketplace without adequate prior IP analysis can result in costly infringement lawsuits and business delays.

A truly effective business strategy based on robust IP analysis is one that not only protects a core technology to create a significant competitive barrier but also protects key product features that help differentiate a product from others in the marketplace and create added customer value. An effective IP-based business strategy will utilize key product features to create a protective patent minefield around a product and its features, effectively hobbling any competitor.

Almost as important as the patents a company uses are the ones they don’t use. Businesses with significant patent portfolios often overlook the potential of unused IP. Intellectual property analysis can determine novelty and unrealized value in neglected patents which can be turned into new sources of revenue through licensing or sale.

The value of intellectual property is growing by leaps and bounds in our evolving, knowledge-based economy. Winners and losers will be determined by those who have effective IP-based strategies and those who don’t.

Discovering IP Value With Analytics

blog-analytical-tools-analytics.jpgIntellectual property (IP) is the core asset of many companies, especially those in technology-based industries. Discovering the true value of IP – both as a company asset and as a competitive weapon – is crucial for overall business success. Gaining insights into IP value can lead to new revenue sources such as licensing opportunities, new product development, and strategic partnerships. It can also aid the development of a competitive business strategy by helping to determine a patent’s -- or an entire portfolio’s -- effect on competitors and the marketplace in general. By gaining critical competitive insights into the patent landscape, you can better identify disruptive innovation opportunities to increase revenues and create competitive roadblocks.

All of this points to the need for comprehensive and proactive IP management. A good IP management program results in a patent portfolio that maximizes a technology’s strength and leverages it to protect and expand market share and increase profitability. This requires sophisticated, technology-based analytics that can reveal the full IP landscape, put patents into context, and deliver, real, actionable business intelligence at the beginning of corporate strategy formulation.

Critical business decisions involving technology and product development as well as mergers and acquisitions must be based on timely and accurate business information, especially IP evaluation – yours, the competition’s, or the target’s, as the case may be. Systematic data gathering, management, and analysis of the marketplace and the IP landscape is now known as “business intelligence” and intellectual property analytics can provide a great deal of intelligence about a competitor’s or acquisition target’s strategy.

With the right analytical tools, you can:

Identify competitors or collaborators Subject search results can be visualized with patent landscape maps (see below) to compare gross numbers of patents held by competing companies and their positions in the marketplace. Results can also be weighted in a number of ways to reveal competitive strength, such as in favor of inventions with counterpart filings in other countries, since that might suggest a larger R&D budget and greater technology value than an invention protected in a single country. Finding complementary IP through subject searches can uncover potential collaborators and strategic partners to help block competitors and gain greater marketshare.

Accurately analyze patent quality Patent citation has long been a traditional way of assessing IP value – the more a patent is cited, the more valuable and important it is. However, simple citation counting offers limited insight into the true worth of a patent and reveals little if anything about the relationship between patents. It’s more important to evaluate patents in context. At IPVision, our Relative Citation Frequency process not only looks at the number of citations given to a specific patent, but ranks that patent in comparison to all others of similar age in the same technology category. This process accurately qualifies the citation count based on patent age and technology segment far beyond simple citation counting.

Understand IP relationships better through interactive patent mapping Unlike traditional static patent maps, interactive maps provide a much richer, dynamic context for patent analysis. They can better reveal citation references to and from single patents or sets of patents and show legally-related patent filings and grants across priority and legal relationships.

As a bonus, mapping technologies by patent classifications and filings from specific countries is a great way to analyze developing markets, track the birth of new technologies, and discover market trends.

(NOTE: Our exclusive interactive patent map visualization tools are unique to the industry – they make it easy to understand the technology landscape and the relationship between patents. Unlike traditional static patent maps, our interactive maps provide a much richer, dynamic context for patent analysis.)

A good IP manager must communicate well with stakeholder groups in your organization and have a complete understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the IP portfolio to capitalize on it strategically and profitably. Intellectual property analysis using sophisticated, technology-based analytics is the key to discovering true IP value.

8 steps for a successful business acquisition

blog-business-acquisition.jpgBusiness acquisition can be a territory fraught with danger, high risk, and emotion. Often decisions are made with a surprising lack of hard data, based largely on “gut feel” and “synergy”, and little else. Intellectual Property (IP) analysis should play a large role in any business acquisition or merger consideration– in fact, it should be at the forefront of any due diligence activities to establish if the acquisition is even worth pursuing. But before we discuss that, let’s examine some of the fundamental criteria that can help ensure the financial success of an acquisition.


Merger and Acquisition Due Diligence: Assessing Intellectual Property

A company’s intellectual property (IP) is one of its most valuable assets. It’s important to thoroughly assess an acquisition’s patent portfolio to better gauge its potential investment value. The larger purpose of acquisition due diligence, of course, is to prove any assumptions, confirm information received (or perceived), and to gather the right information that enables informed decisions to be made concerning company acquisition.


Written by Joe Hadzima

Sangetta Bhatia is the 2014 Lemelson-MIT Prize Winner

The Lemelson-MIT Awards Committee announced that the 2014 Winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize is Sangetta Bhatia, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a faculty member at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

According to The Lemelson-MIT Program the Prize "recognizes individuals who translate their ideas into inventions and innovations that improve the world in which we live....Dubbed the "Oscar for Inventors," the Lemelson-MIT Prize is awarded to outstanding mid-career inventors who have developed a patented product or process of significant value to society, which has been adopted for practical use, or has a high probability of being adopted."

Trained as both a physician and engineer, Bhatia is dedicated to leveraging miniaturization tools from the world of semiconductor manufacturing to impact human health. She has pioneered technologies for interfacing living cells with synthetic systems, enabling new applications in tissue regeneration, stem cell differentiation, medical diagnostics and drug delivery. Her multidisciplinary team has developed a broad and impactful range of inventions, including human micro livers which model human drug metabolism, liver disease, and interaction with pathogens, and a suite of communicating nanomaterials that can be used to interrogate, monitor and treat cancer and other diseases.  See: MIT Technology Review for articles and stories about her work.

Patent Portfolio Interconnection Map of Belcher Patents

As of June 2014 Professor Belcher was listed as an inventor on 11 issued U.S. patents and 27 published pending U.S. patent applications.

This IPVision Patent Portfolio Interconnection Map shows the U.S. patents and applications of Sangetta Bhatia and the citation relationships within the portfolio.  Note: Click on the Patent Map Image to View an Interactive Patent Map

The Bhatia patents have been cited by 243 other U.S. patents owned by companies such as Sanofi-Aventis, C.R. Bard, Insulet Corporation, BioArray Soulutions and Surface Logix.

IPVision Report Provided to Lemelson-MIT Prize Committee

IPVision provided the Lemelson-MIT Prize Committee with patent analysis reports on each of the semi-finalist and finalist nominees for the 2014 Lemelson-MIT Prize.   Obtain a free copy of the IPVision Patent Analysis Report on Sangetta Bhatia.

Written by Joe Hadzima

Bose Sues Beat Electronics – Patent Map and Analytics of Each Side

On July 25, 2014, Bose Corporation filed a patent infringement suit against Beats Electronics, which is in the process of being acquired by Apple for $3 billion.

Let’s take a look at the complaint and what ammunition each side has in its patent portfolio.

Bose alleges that Beats “Studio®” and “Studio® Wireless” brands active noise reduction headphones infringe Bose patented noise cancellation technology.  In the complaint Bose states  “For almost 50 years, Bose has made significant investment in the research, development, engineering, and design of proprietary technologies now implemented in its  products, such as noise cancelling headphones.  Bose’s current line of noise cancelling headphones, for example, embodies inventions protected by at least 36 U.S. patents and applications (22 patents and 14 pending applications) ….. Bose’s latest noise cancelling headphones model, the QC20, is protected by at least 27 U.S. patents and applications (14 patents and 13 pending applications)”.   In the complaint Bose asserts that Beat is infringing the following U.S. patents (the “Asserted Patents”):

Written by Joe Hadzima

Technology Landscapes: Corporate Venture Group: Deal Scouting

This is the fourth in a series of articles about Technology Landscapes aka Patent Landscapes.  In the first post “Why I Hate the Phrase ‘Technology Landscape’”  we note that the phrase “technology landscape” means different things to different people in different contexts.   In the second article “Technology Landscapes and Patent Monetization”  we point out that a technology landscape is only the starting point to making business decisions regarding Patent Monetization (making money on your patents).   The third article investigated the use of a technology landscape to support a Corporate Growth Strategy for an emerging company.

Written by Joe Hadzima

Technology Landscapes: Emerging Company Growth Strategy

This is the third in a series of posts about Technology Landscapes aka Patent Landscapes.  In the first post “"Why I Hate the Phrase ‘Technology Landscape’”  I note that the phrase “technology landscape” means different things to different people in different contexts.   In the second article “Technology Landscapes and Patent Monetization”  I point out that a technology landscape is only the starting point to making business decisions regarding Patent Monetization (making money on your patents). 

This article is about a company that asked IPVision for a technology landscape to support its Corporate Growth Strategy.

Written by Joe Hadzima

Technology Landscapes and Patent Monetization

This is the second in a series of posts about Technology Landscapes aka Patent Landscapes.  In the first post “Why I Hate the Phrase ‘Technology Landscape’”.   I point out that the phrase “Technology Landscape” is used to describe everything from a $1,000 offshore basic patent search to a $200k high-end consulting engagement with strategy consulting firms or a law firm billing by the hour.   Although the price varies greatly, what these Technology Landscape Vendors have in common is:


Create a patent landscape map

Patent citation analysis that makes it simple to explore complex relationships with a visual guide