5 Steps to Protecting Your Competitive Advantage

January 4, 2016 YourEncore Marketing


The single most important value an R&D organization contributes to a company is its know-how – the source of the company’s competitive advantage. An effective Intellectual Property (IP) process that manages the organization’s know-how and is integrated into the innovation process is essential for success. A disciplined IP program offers several benefits, including:

  • A stronger innovation portfolio of differentiated and insulated new products,
  • A pipeline of new innovations,
  • Greater speed to market,
  • A proactive (versus reactive) strategy as the business and competitive environment changes,
  • Keeping a step ahead of the competition,
  • New revenue streams, and
  • Reduced legal risk.

What are the essential elements of effective IP Mgmt?

1. Start Smart. Understand the competition and technology landscape before you attempt to develop the IP strategy. This involves identifying what you know, what others know and how to develop or source what you need. This kind of homework takes time and resources; however, it pays enormous dividends downstream. Embrace the concept “going slow to go fast.”

2. Develop the IP Strategy. The business strategy (the “what”) directs the technology and IP strategies (the “how”). Due diligence in knowledge gathering and interpretation at the onset of every new program is a critical enabler for developing an efficient and effective IP strategy – minimizes reinvention and freedom to operate concerns, identifies opportunities for re-use or external partnering, focuses development resources, minimizes legal risks and supports excellence in execution. Should you insulate, maintain as secret, buy time, ring fence/block, side step or ensure freedom to operate? The IP strategy needs to be comprehensive for the category, technology platform and new product, and focused on the benefits you want to own and protect.

3. Tools. Access the right tools to search, analyze and monitor the technology/IP landscape. Whether to build capability in-house or use external resources, there is no substitute to having the subject matter experts reading the patent claims and valuing the strength and competitive risk of the IP. Effective tools are also available for tracking and managing the IP workflow, from invention disclosure to filing/prosecution to maintenance.

4. Integrated Business Processes. Integrate IP strategy and execution into the existing business’ decision making process. This ensures alignment of IP strategy with business objectives, ensures a consistent approach to patent filings across regions, and leverages innovation across business units. In turn, a consistent, collaborative and communicative IP workflow process is also essential to effective IP management.

5. IP Estate Management. An effective IP program requires discipline and rigor in developing the IP strategy, global filings and maintenance/annuity decisions. Business units or Category IP Review Teams (R&D experts & Legal) that provide guidance to the inventor and review, strengthen and approve new inventions is a best practice. Establishing IP champions within the R&D organization to provide advice, support and subject matter expertise to the inventor is also a good idea.

Implementing these five key elements is the recipe to deliver competitive advantage and marketplace success via an optimized cost-benefit management of your IP portfolio. Please subscribe to YourEncore Insights for more tips on maintaining a competitive advantage. 

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