IAM, Sun Tzu, and “White Space”

sun_tzu“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Okay, so intellectual asset management (IAM) is not exactly war.  But exploitation of intellectual assets is definitely a business competition.  And in competition, like in war, you need to understand your own strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies as well as those of your adversaries if you are to be successful.

IP landscape analysis is a knowledge discovery discipline that involves the comprehensive search and analysis of intellectual assets and scientific literature pertinent to a given technology area.  The deliverable of this analysis is typically a IP landscape report that captures business factors in the technology area at a “snapshot” in time and synthesizes findings into actionable information.  Consider it your battle plan!

Self-Assessment

An IP landscape report may include an introspective look at a company’s intellectual asset portfolio, both current and planned.  The report may present more than a mere inventory of assets, but also the grouping of assets by characteristics such as genealogy or technological field.  Although self-assessments most commonly focus on patent portfolios, other intellectual assets such as copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets may be subjects of IP landscape analysis.

Market Assessment

An in-depth identification and evaluation of technologies developed by key players in the field of interest is an essential part of an IP landscape report.  Of course, the first step of market assessment is identifying who are the key players in the field.  For example, a search of the leading assignees of patented technology in a field may identify dominant competitors in the market for that technology.  Also, a search of scholarly articles in a given field may identify research universities and/or emerging private players in the technology space.  After key players are identified, the IP landscape analysis may include characterization of each player’s presence in the market.  Of interest are business strategies and strengths, including factors such as geography (e.g., a player’s IP rights and market presence in a given country, region, or worldwide) and financial resources (e.g., a player’s ability to fund future research and development in the field).

“White Space”

So called “white space analysis” of a technology marketplace or of an area of research may be performed using the information gathered on key players in that landscape.  Of interest is identification of technological gaps where invention may be generated (for example, through additional research and development efforts) and/or where competitive advantage may be gained (for example, by blocking a competitor’s market strategy).  Also, tracking of trends in patenting in a field over time, territory, and/or application area may be useful in predicting where technological gaps may be exploited in the future.  Ongoing tracking of patterns of IP activity for white space analysis may focus on the density of IP activity in a technology area, the diversity of solutions for a particular technical problem, and the rapidity of technology decay and of innovation bloom.

More next time on the application of decision-support findings in an IP landscape report.

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