Overestimate Competitors (No. 19 in our list of IP mistakes)
Another IP strategy mistake is to overestimate competitors. This mistake is not as rich in case examples as underestimating competitors because it tends to drive inaction. We can see cases where it would have been easy to overestimate the competition, however. RIM appeared to have a secure position in smartphones with BlackBerry before Apple and Android showed up. Nike and Adidas dominated sports apparel – and then Under Armour appeared to stake a significant claim? Samsung switched positions from the cheaper alternative to the likes of Sony to the leader across many product platforms?
A key for all these players was to avoid the mistake of overestimating the competition. Almost any enterprise has a weakness that an astute competitor can exploit. RIM focused on the business market with its smartphones and left an opening in the consumer market. Apple and Android captured this market and then attacked the business position as well. Under Armour secured entry with compression t-shirts that its rivals did not offer and expanded from there even into the challenging markets of sports shoes. Samsung out long viewed Sony, a company that had traditionally done very well on that regard, to make products that offered just a little bit more value for the money where they compete – superior performance at comparable price levels.
It is a mistake not to exploit business opportunities that make sense for you to exploit by overestimating a competitor. The better solution is to understand what makes the competitor apparently strong and where it may have left a door open. Do the innovation and then protect the IP.
There is no such thing as an unassailable business position if you have the money, time, creativity, and resolve to exploit a weakness that is bound to be there today or tomorrow.
(This is number 19 in our list of IP mistakes and how to avoid them.)
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