Friday Support: IP – How intense is my competition?

The eighth in a series of 10 blogs by Martin Brassell of Inngot, helping you find your own answers to 10 key questions about your intellectual property, or IP.

Returning to a theme we touched on in the last of these blogs: the competitive landscape into which you will be launching your new product or service should be a key consideration when formulating your IP strategy.

Whether yours is an incremental improvement or something that is truly ‘disruptive’, there are a couple of things you can count on as soon as you enter the market and secure your treasured first mover advantage. The first is that your established competition will react - not necessarily by beating a path to your door. The second is that without a plan to achieve scale, it will be difficult to consolidate and build on your advantage through continuous improvement.

To take a familiar example; when Sony introduced the Beta video recording format for home use, the company hoped to establish it as a standard, but JVC decided to go its own way with VHS. We all know who won that particular
battle, but the reasons behind it are interesting. 

JVC adopted a strategy of licensing VHS technology to other manufacturers at a very early stage, and because it acquired scale, was able to compete more effectively on price and value. These turned out to be more important than quality (which was not decisively superior). In the UK, it also helped that many of the rental firms from which you hired your recorder were owned by a company in which JVC had a stake.

However, this is best understood as the end of a chapter, not a story. Blu-ray has recently triumphed over HD DVD thanks to more widespread adoption, and guess who originally invented that format? Sony.

The devices we all carry around with us today are packed with patents, designs and copyright software that have been developed by a host of different companies. Without licensing it would be impossible to develop common interfaces or share enhancements; it would also be harder for innovators to generate scale because they wouldn’t be able to ‘stand on the shoulders of others’ in IP terms, or access the power of their distribution networks.

Entrepreneurs in the new digital space have unprecedented opportunities to achieve scale because they can promote and distribute their works globally at low or zero cost. This drives down price and increases consumer choice. However, to be seen, and thus acquire that scale, you still have to be connected with the right players, and visible in the Internet’s biggest shop windows. And then, given the pace of change, you will need to keep developing your IP in order to stay there.

It seems that Lewis Carroll put some prescient words in the mouth of the Queen in Alice Through The Looking Glass. As she said: “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Visit for details of how to profile and value your IP and intangibles.

De-mystifying IP

IP - Unlocking the hidden value of apps

IP - What have I got?

IP - Is what I have original and distinctive?

Is my IP really mine?

IP - How can I protect what I’ve got?

IP - Who else knows about what I’ve got?

IP - How open should I be?

IP - How big is the market for what I have?

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