Monday, 9 May 2016

Patent landscape and IP competitive intelligence: should every company have it?

In a field of activity that has suffered from a dearth of useful objective and non-promotional literature, an article with the title "Leveraging Patent Landscape Analysis and IP Competitive Intelligence for Competitive Advantage" is bound to attract serious attention.  This piece, published earlier this year in Elsevier's World Patent Information, is authored by Yateen R. Pargaonkar. A registered US patent agent, Pargaonkar is Manager, IP Competitive Trends, with Chevron Energy Technology Co., having previously occupied a competitive intelligence management role with Procter & Gamble. 

What is this article about? According to the abstract:
"Patent landscape and the accompanying IP competitive intelligence involves understanding and anticipating the competitive environment within which a company operates. More specifically, IP competitive intelligence highlights emerging IP risks, provides patent portfolio benchmarking, monitors competitor technology development efforts, and predicts commercialization of technology.   
This paper provides a framework for patent landscape and IP competitive intelligence as driven by strategic intent. This paper advocates the benefits of both “quantitative” statistical analysis and “qualitative” human intelligence for IP competitive intelligence [this may come as a shock to some people whose understanding of IP analytics is gleaned from Twitter and who may have thought that the quantitative analysis has replaced human intelligence rather than enhancing it]. Moreover, this paper defines four Levels of IP analysis with pruned examples for effective competitive intelligence".
Not exactly laugh-a-minute stuff, this summarises what IP analytics, when properly undertaken and when allied to reasonable commercial demands and expectations, can achieve.  

It is worth considering some of the discussion points with which Pargaonkar concludes his paper:
"IP competitive intelligence is an ethical process, which means no hacking, no spyware or spying, and certainly no dumpster diving. It is based on both primary (mostly in-person interviews, surveys) and secondary online research. The deliverables of IP competitive intelligence are defined at the beginning of each project. The central mission is to enable informed IP management, increase awareness of emerging risk, and strategy planning decisions [In other words, we are talking about a carefully-thought-out process that requires human input as well as technological resources -- a process that is plainly not reflected in the sort of valuations and recommendations that determine day-to-day fluctuations in stock prices].  
... Executive sponsorship is needed as the Senior Executives are the ones who can make the most of the IP competitive insights. It is important to include them early in the process, to understand the key strategic questions they face, and update them at periodic pre-determined intervals [this is a boardroom issue, as Aistemos emphasised last year in Section 5 of its report, Trillion Dollar Tipping Point, here].  
... Monetization via patent licensing or value extraction is more important to certain companies and sectors. Unfortunately, these selected examples are often touted as best-in-class examples and raise unrealistic expectations regarding patent licensing and patent value [big money deals not only hog the headlines and create unrealistic expectations, but by virtue of their heavy publicity they are the easiest to find when looking for general guidance online. While headlines like "Small patent portfolio sold, not much paid" sound boring and inconsequential, they are the norm in most sectors at most times]. It should be stressed that IP competitive intelligence impacts multiple aspects of an effective IP strategy (overall value) as detailed here and value extraction is one tangible part of the overall value".
We can conclude with the author's Takeaway:
"Competitive intelligence has been traditionally aligned with sales, finance, and market intelligence. With the widespread use of IP and data analytics, there is a remarkable opportunity for patent information professionals to promote the strategic use of IP competitive intelligence. The practice of allocating full-time (100% FTE) IP competitive intelligence personnel and developing a dedicated IP competitive intelligence capability can benefit almost every company [this allocation will consume resources and may be seen as a luxury few companies can afford: there may be room to debate the virtues of in-house versus outsourced IP intelligence]. Strategic intent and the usage (how the information will be used) is the key driver. There is always time to do the analysis right. Different levels of analysis can be chosen to set and manage expectations. IP competitive intelligence enables and strengthens IP strategy".

Readers' comments and thoughts on this article, and the author's various propositions, are greatly welcomed.


  1. Given that a business or investor may have a specific need for a patent landscape at peak times but not at others, an in-house facility sounds like an expensive luxury.

  2. Board-level IP intelligence, strategy and decision-making? Never, until the value and significance of IP is understood by a wider audience than IP experts themselves, and it may be that they are reluctant to share their expertise since it makes them less special.

  3. Presumably the need for human input and the time taken to get from raw data to a comprehensive picture will mean that this sort of service will never work in real time for financial analysts who have to make instant calls

  4. Most international companies already have specialized transfer pricing professionals that are tuned into inter-company IP issues. Those TP professionals usually don't interact on the opportunities related to 3rd party licensing. It is surprising that more people do not connect these issues in more detail.

  5. How would any SME know when, and at what level, to buy in to this sort of thing? Not only is there very little serious writing on the subject, there isn't even much in the way of decent promotional/educational literature online or elsewhere.

  6. I read this with interest and can say that, instead of being left with an acute sense of "so what?", I'm now mildly curious to know "what next?" The literature on this is progressing at snails-pace judging by the author's footnotes. Business can't hang around forever

  7. This sort of intelligence is never likely to take root at board level (or elsewhere) until well informed institutional shareholders insist on it.