One of the cornerstones of effective IP strategy – not to mention corporate strategy – is competitive analysis. Too often we see IP and technology transfer leaders trying to manage their internal IP portfolio without understanding what is going on outside of the organization. To help address this, we released our new Compare Feature, which enables users to instantly compare up to five organizations. In this article, we focus on how you can use this to improve three key elements of IP Strategy:
Benchmarking: Identify Strengths & Gaps in your IP Portfolio
Licensing Strategy: Prioritize technology areas for in- and out-licensing
Due-Diligence: Evaluate the technology portfolios of acquisition targets or licensing partners
You can start comparing organizations by clicking the “Compare” option on our sidebar menu or /on any organization’s profile page. Alternatively, use the compare icon on any table listing organizations to choose a set of organizations in the table to compare.
Our Compare page lets you quickly search for and add up to five organizations. Just start typing in our search bar and select the organization from our list of suggestions.
From here you can use our analytics to understand high-level IP and technology trends at each organization or compare specific technology areas. The first analysis you’ll see is our Overview table, which provides a snapshot of each organization’s total patent count, their recent patent filings, and the strength of their IP portfolio.
A Quick Note on Patent Quality
About 20 years ago, a group of financial analysts started looking at patent filings as a way to track innovation and R&D investment at companies. Pretty soon, companies caught on to this and started patenting everything they could to increase their stock price. While the role of IP financial analysis has become more nuanced since then, we still see organizations that generate a large number of relatively low-quality patents that do not correlate with their actual technology investments.
To address this, we developed our IP Strength Score, which looks at metrics like citation networks to determine the importance of a patent. With this in mind, a company with 500 Virtual Reality patents and an average patent score of 40% may actually have a less compelling Virtual Reality portfolio than a company with 400 patents that are in the 70th patent strength percentile.
In many cases, organizations have large, varied IP portfolios. While it can be helpful to look at their portfolios in their entirety, we often want to identify the specific technology areas in which they have developed IP (or in which they have gaps). The Top Technologies Table enables you to quickly see the ten technology areas where organizations have amassed the most patents. Whether you’re comparing your portfolio to competitors to identify strengths and gaps or looking at acquisition/investment targets to assess complementarity, this is an effective way to compare technology footprints.
In addition to top-level comparisons, you can also see how organizations stack up against each other in specific technology areas. Just use our technology taxonomy to select one or more technology areas. You can use the Overview table to look at the volume and quality of patents in that technology area.
You can also see how these data points have changed over time using our Patent Trends Chart, or analyze organizations’ geographic footprint for a given technology using the Patent Geography Trends Table.
Patent Geography Trends
Patent Filing Over Time
Putting it All Together
Now that you know how to navigate our comparison page, you can start using it to fine-tune your IP strategy. Although the most effective IP strategies are tailored to an organization’s context, we have suggested a few best practices based on our experience working with some of the world’s most innovative companies:
Any insights you get from the competitive analysis are only as relevant as the competitors you compare yourself against. Selecting your closest competitors can highlight areas of under-investment or where your technology portfolio is particularly differentiated.
Alternatively, focusing on start-ups can provide insight into emerging trends and help you make more forward-looking technology bets. Lastly, looking at non-traditional players from adjacent markets can help identify acquisition opportunities.
Each archetype provides unique competitive insights – be sure to use compare yourself against the archetype that will generate the type of insights you are looking for.
IP Commercialization to Fill innovation Gaps
For technology gaps that emerge from your comparative analysis, IP licensing and commercialization can be an underutilized way to build capability. Because research labs can be difficult to deal with, companies often neglect to take advantage of them as a way to access emerging technologies. For nearer-term needs, it is increasingly common for companies to license or acquire IP and know-how from other corporate portfolios.
Either way, IP licensing and commercialization is usually lower cost and lower risk than other more common options like Corporate Venture and M&A. While it is not a silver bullet, it should be an important part of any technology investment playbook.
Use Your Strengths to Build an Innovation Ecosystem
While companies have a justifiable focus on identifying gaps in their portfolios, it is equally important to leverage data on your strengths. Areas of comparative technological strength often correspond with differentiation. Companies that fail to continue investing in these strengths risk losing their competitive edge.
These differentiators also create compelling opportunities for external licensing and commercialization. However, companies are often hesitant to share their “secret sauce.” This type of thinking leads to missed opportunities. With the proliferation of cross-cutting technologies, there is more opportunity to license or commercialize IP in non-core markets while still protecting your competitive edge in your core markets. Not only does this drive new revenue, but it also helps companies build vibrant partnership ecosystems that in turn drive new innovation across the company.