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Why I Hate the Phrase "Technology Landscape"

technology landscapeWhy You Need an Industry Study from IPVision Instead

A wise man once said, “Language gets in the way of communication.” In my experience, the lexicon of “technology landscape” or “patent technology landscape” gets in the way of making strategic and even tactical business decisions involving intellectual property and business strategy. That is why I hate the phrase “technology landscape” as applied to patents.

Traditional Technology Landscapes

A web search for the phrase “technology landscape” covers everything from a $1,000 offshore basic patent search, to a $200k high-end consulting engagement with strategy consulting firms such as Boston Consulting Group or McKinsey, to a law firm billing by the hour.

The things that all of these organizations have in common include:

  • They purchase a subscription to a software tool, often exactly the same software
  • They produce a technical or management consulting view that is usually not actionable
  • Their reports are static; by the time they deliver them the world has changed
  • They don’t provide electronic access to underlying data (no client portal).
  • They don’t help you integrate the knowledge gained into your business processes

I know this because I was part of a group doing technology commercialization, focusing primarily on MIT technology. We looked for solutions that helped us make strategic business decisions that incorporated a deep understanding of the intellectual property arenas in which we were thinking of making investments. We looked, but we did not find anything. So, we designed a solution to help ourselves because nothing in the marketplace was available to meet our needs  

In 2000, we founded IPVision and designed a proprietary system to help provide an actionable deliverable that enabled us to use the results both strategically and tactically. Specifically we wanted something where:

  • The results were delivered quickly
  • The process was cost effective
  • The results could be updated easily for continual assessment

Recent Inquiries About Technology Landscapes

In the last month IPVision has received multiple inquiries for a “technology landscape.” In discussing with these companies what their business objectives were it became clear that the phrase “technology landscape” means different things to different people. Here are the backgrounds on four of these inquiries that illustrates this point:

Major Operating Company: Patent Monetization

A multinational company (“BigCorp”) with a significant investment in patents, an in-house patent staff, patent software, and databases contacted IPVision for assistance investigating a business strategy. The company’s internal technology landscape team consisted of a number of PhDs, patent search experts, and lawyers.

The internal technology landscape team was looking to identify patents within a specific technology area to determine if a strategy of patent monetization of BigCorp’s existing patent portfolio made sense. In other words, they were trying to find companies that might be candidates for licensing or sale of BigCorp’s patents. The Internal team had developed a technology landscape that had tons of patents but they had no way to filter out the noise. They asked, “What do we do with all of this?” The manager in charge of this effort was frustrated, feeling as though he wasn’t getting the answers to all his questions.  See, Patent Monetization.

Small Corporation: IP Strategy and Growth

After several years of product development, a small, well-funded company introduced its first major product line. The product is being well received in the market and management is preparing to raise capital for growth. The company is early on in its IP development, and it wants to be more strategic in its IP strategy. Its patent lawyers are from a major law firm.  Management thinks the patent work to date is good but wants an independent view. In addition, management feels that the law firm is not able to provide the company with input into IP strategy from a business perspective. Management wants to be able to answer IP strategy questions from potential new investors. Management thinks that it needs a technology landscape to identify competitors and to see what the company is up against.  See, IP Strategy and Growth.

Corporate Venture Group: Deal Scouting

The US-based corporate venture group of a multinational corporation had made an acquisition and belatedly wanted to understand competitors’ patent positions within the area. On a going-forward basis, they wanted to identify potential acquisition targets and to understand the extent of white space within certain areas.

A few years ago, they contracted with a major strategy consulting firm to produce a technology landscape. The cost of the project was in the $200,000+ range and, although it was major consulting firm, the landscape didn’t really provide answers to the questions that management was concerned about.

When the corporate venture group contacted IPVision, they were also looking at additional traditional vendors, primarily law firms and offshore search firms.  See, Corporate Venture Capital

Venture Capital/Private Equity Group: Deal Evaluation

A private equity firm is looking to make a $10M investment in a company with an interesting technology that is applicable to a number of areas ranging from medical applications to food products to agriculture. The company has 60+ patents. The Private Equity Firm wants to know what questions it should ask about the company’s patent position. For example, what is the patent situation in the various application areas? Should the company consider licensing its technology to others in certain areas? How good are the patents? Do they have license or assertion potential? What would happen if the company failed to commercialize the technology, and what residual value would the patent portfolio have?   See, Deal Evaluation.

Why I prefer the phrase “Industry Study”

The business managers in the four cases I outlined above each asked for a technology landscape. Although there is some commonality in their situations, the questions they have are really quite different.

So that language does not get in the way of communication, I prefer to talk about an industry study as the basic foundation for answering the broad range of questions and addressing the business situations illustrated by my four sample cases.

In an industry study, we examine an industry as a whole to identify what organizations exist in the space, what the sizes of those organizations are, what the IP position of those organizations is, what the filing history is, who is new to the space vs. well established, and if we can make projections based on this data for the industry as a whole and advise our client based upon this data to address the client’s objectives. What is the strength of each portfolio within the space? We work with the client to help them digest this foundational knowledge at a managerial level as well as at an operational level.  

IPVision offers a 3-tier industry study deliverable tailored to the business objective identified:

  • For the C-Level Executive: An Executive Summary focusing on strategic implications
  • For the Director Level: A longform report with links to underlying data
  • For the Analyst Level: Online client portal with underlining data for further investigation

We augment the deliverables with working sessions at each level as appropriate to insure that the Industry Study knowledge is internalized and made operationally available. IPVision Industry Studies make extensive use of computer algorithms to help us interprete and communicate the results to the business, technical and legal experts. Because of this we can spend less time producing the analyses and more time working with the client. This also enables us to provide quarterly updates at a fraction of the price of the initial work thus facilitating on-going business processes for our clients and long-term collaborative relationships between IPVision and our clients.

The next articles in this series will examine the specifics of the four cases in more detail. 

In the meantime, if your situation is similar to any of these four, or if you want help discovering how IP and patents relate to your business goals and concerns, contact IPVision today.  


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Categories: Patent Landscape, IP Monetization, Technology Landscape