We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us
On a day in 1970, a well-known comic strip called Pogo had environmental protection as its subject for the day. Upon seeing the environment littered with trash, the character Pogo stated, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” This statement yields a universal truth quoted by strategy practitioners in many fields that certainly applies to IP strategy as well. The greatest source of friction that prevents most organizations from achieving their goals tends to come from within and not from the outside. Unfocused or off target effort, misallocated resources, artificial constraints, and the taking of unnecessary risks are all problems generated by suboptimal IP strategy and management generated from within. These problems may be exacerbated by competitors exploiting resulting vulnerabilities that they, the competitors, did not actually cause. Your vulnerability to outside entities, be they any or all of competitors, partners, and even customers, lies in your own hands, not theirs. Outside entities can only exploit those vulnerabilities that your organization leaves open.
When you plan IP strategy and consider what could go wrong with your plans, it is very important to take a look in the organizational mirror and recognize that you (your organization and associated policies and procedures) may very well be your greatest opponent. If it is not your own organization, it may be individuals within the organization whose personal interests fall out of alignment with the organization. For example, directives and incentives to cut costs for an IP manager could go directly against an organizational need to raise the level of IP protection for a new initiative so as not to leave it vulnerable. Interests that fall out of alignment tend to oppose and add friction to an effort, oppose being very similar in meaning to compete.
Dealing with a competitor that is us is not an easy task for any IP strategist. It means plunging head first into the world of organizational politics where persuasive selling skills are as important as an in-depth knowledge of the ways of IP. Few organizations have ever taken missteps to the benefit of their competition that individuals within those organizations did not recognize yet did not have the means or wherewithal to change. And so we live with the consequences, or we do not. We have met the real enemy, and he is often us.