The decision to expand into international markets is and always should remain a business decision that carefully balances the benefits and risks presented by the new market.
As an IP professional, failing to think globally generally means failing to foresee potential opportunities and pitfalls of new markets and create the necessary environment that will put the company in the best possible position in those markets. There are many reasons why this would happen and probably two of the most common reasons are:
1. Not realizing or communicating the business potential the product might have in a respective market.
2. Thinking about IP protection in terms of cost-of-gaining-and-maintaining-IP (patents most cases) – focusing on restraints rather than opportunities.
Additional layers of complexity in creating adequate IP protection globally are brought by strict resource allocation within the company, the somewhat unpredictable value of present R&D developments on global markets and unknown local behaviors. There are, however, some basic things that are worth considering in IP development and the creation of global IP strategies that will help support strategic expansion in new marekts.
First, asking what the scope of the R&D development is and what the corresponding IP should actually protect is an incredibly important aspect of determining both the geographical scope as well as the breadth of protection required from an IP right. Is the IP necessary just to be present on the market? Is it protecting key differentiating characteristics of the product at the point of sale? Is the IP used mainly for steering of competition, etc.? The answer to these and similar questions is highly dependent on the IP professional’s ability to bridge professions and understand business as well as sales necessities. If answered correctly, the questions can lead to valuable models for decision makers to guide IP development on global markets effectively considering their perceived value, cost incurred, and the criticality of IP.
The recognition and use of all available resources is another important factor in creating global IP strategies. As mentioned above, resource utilization is very often a constraint that will negatively impact the capacity of an IP professional to act globally. Not having a patent/IP protection in a jurisdiction, however, does not mean that expanding in that jurisdiction is unwise from a business perspective. This may, however, require the IP professional to shift from traditional IP practices to creative IP strategies: focusing on trademark use and communication, cooperation with existing companies on the market, using intellectual capital to shift to more valuable positions in the value chain, offering or creating system solutions/platform solutions instead of individual products, and other such possibilities.
(This is number 12 in our list of IP mistakes and how to avoid them.)
(Image credit: somegeekintn)