The output of an intellectual property (IP) landscape analysis is typically a report that captures business factors in a given technology area at a “snapshot” in time and synthesizes findings into actionable information. The findings in an IP landscape report may be applied to support business decision-making at any level of intellectual asset management (IAM) maturity achieved by an organization. Here are a few examples of decision support in the context of different levels of the IP Value Hierarchy:
• Defensive Level
The goal of a company at this IAM maturity level is to protect its own innovations, expressions, good will, and/or secrets from competitors. In general, an IP landscape analysis may help a company map the “mine field” in a particular area of technology. For example, a company may apply IP landscape analysis to identify possible instances of infringement or misappropriation of the company’s intellectual assets by third parties. Also, the findings of an IP landscape report may be used to ensure that the company does not infringe the intellectual property rights of others, called “freedom to operate.” Dense activity in a solution space may signal that a particular technology is potentially hobbled by the IP rights of competitors.
• Cost Control Level
Some companies are able to focus not only on finding ways to protect intellectual assets but also on minimizing the costs of creating and maintaining those assets. The operating budgets of companies often are limited in terms of the legal expenses (e.g., registration, enforcement) and maintenance expenses (e.g., maintenance, support) related to IP that a company can absorb. The information gleaned from an IP landscape analysis may feed a risk-based prioritization of business actions based on the associated costs and the probability of returns on investment.
• Profit Center Level
Companies at this level are able to proactively identify and pursue opportunities to monetize their intellectual assets, both inside and outside the company. The results of an IP landscape analysis may help quantity the value of using a technology in-house in support of the company business. Also, the report may offer insight into third parties to whom a company’s IP may be out-licensed for a royalty or (in the case of an asset that is declining in company value) may be sold outright. Market data captured in an IP landscape report may seed the larger quantification effort of establishing a royalty rate and/or sale price for a particular intellectual asset.
• Strategic Level
A strategic-thinking company may use IP landscape analysis to monitor technological trends, and particularly those technologies being pursued by the most successful competitors. The report from such an analysis may expose sparse activity and/or “white space” in a technology area, which may suggest business niches that are possibly ripe for exploitation. Also, an IP landscape report may highlight gaps in the company’s patent portfolio relative to competitors, and may even provide insight into the projected expense of pursuing a particular technology by ascertaining for comparison the investments made by competitors in similar technology. Such information may be useful when a company must decide whether to strengthen the company’s presence in a technological market either by “buying” a needed technology, or by “building” the technology through research and development investment. In the case of a “buy” approach, the IA landscape report may suggest third parties who are candidates for in-licensing, collaboration (cross-licensing), or merger/acquisition.