Spontaneous innovation is a rarity these days. Sometimes it seems like there will never be another new idea, as companies simply build upon current innovations. When spontaneous innovation does occur, it likely disrupts the current industry and systematically strips away market share from the current company in the top spot.
Other innovations come about as a result of sustained incremental improvements. Our huge selection of vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, cars, and computers are evidence that incremental improvements to existing technology can also help a company chip away at market share. Consider Dyson, certainly not the first or even the best-known name in vacuum cleaners—and hair dryers, for that matter. However, their improvements to the technology set the company apart and help them conquer a large portion of the market.
Now, would you assume that knowing what your competition is working on is more important for spontaneous innovation or incremental improvements? If you’re working on something that no one else has ever created, do you even need to keep an eye out for potential competition?
Most would assume that their incremental innovations are the ones that must be protected from potential theft or infringement litigation. At IPVision, we think keeping an eye on the intellectual property your competitors and potential competitors are developing is important regardless of your decision to create products from scratch or to improve other technology incrementally.
Accessing Competitor Intelligence
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.
Examining the Technology Landscape
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. Competitive intelligence 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.
Make Room for Innovation
Patent competitive intelligence 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
A patent landscape is only one way to discover what your competitors are up to. Another way to examine everything going on in a particular company is to search out patents for that individual entity. For instance, if you complete a patent landscape and see a company is venturing into technology that is of interest to you, head over to our Advantage dashboard and learn all the patents that company has filed.
With a full picture of the technology in any given space, you can be better prepared for innovation without running into road blocks along the way. The results are the same, whether you’re attempting products no one’s ever seen before or hoping to improve upon the technology that’s already available.
By utilizing competitor analysis tools to obtain information about important competitors and using that information to predict their behavior you can formulate a more effective IP strategy to protect your existing revenue streams and to launch new product and revenue initiatives.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can guide you through the innovation process with the use of competitive intelligence and intellectual property information, give us a call.
An earlier version of this article was published on Jun 13, 2016. It has been updated to include new information.