Beware business model changes

The business model used by the business you are supporting profoundly affects the way you do IP Strategy.

Depending on the industry, the business model can change quite dramatically and make your efforts obsolete.

They won’t always recognise nor tell you that they just changed the business model – so watch out.

If you’re close to the business and understand how it really works, then you’ll probably be part of the change when it happens anyway.

A lot has been written about IP Strategy, and most of it is vague and unhelpful.
Over the past few months I have been designing a program to give you practical, concrete skills and insight into IP Strategy.  (I have been thinking about a program like this for about 20 years – see my LinkedIn profile for IP Strategy endorsements and blurbs etc.)
AltIP is an online, collaborative, month-long intensive course.  You will work in small groups and at times on your own to solve real problems that affect you and those you serve today.  I will be there every step of the way to support and coach you.
At the end you will have a deeper insight into practical tools and decision points in IP Strategy.  You will know the IP Strategy history, current status and suggested future for your chosen study organisation.  (A consultant would charge tens of thousands of dollars for this work. Use this to get funding assistance from your employer.)  You will know how to repeat this process or parts of it, as required for other organisations.
You will also have a broader network and you will be invited to stay involved in the online (Slack) community we will be using during the course.
It’s not full time – you can keep doing your day job, but its going to be a busy month.
AltIP is not for everyone, it is challenging, time consuming and it will be expensive.  If you know someone who you think would benefit, then I hope you will share this with them.
At this stage I will run one course only.  This may change but I can’t guarantee it.
Applications will be reviewed and accepted on a first come, first served basis.
Thank you Seth Godin and the team at AltMBA for the inspiration and a model to finally do something about this.


Mergers and Acquisitions are a key source of strategic value in business.

You can make an enormous contribution to M&A.  Its a simple thing to set up a scan for valuable technology and IP using standard databases.

Stay in touch with the M&A team, understand what they’re looking for today and help them find it.

If the deal is on, you will have a head start on the due diligence process, and you will have time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

Deception and IP Strategy

An act of deception has won many a military battle – from Sun Tzu to the Trojan Horse, from Alexander the Great, Hannibal or Napolean to the Spaniards defeating the overwhelmingly more numerous Incas.

Here are some examples that I have seen deployed to mislead a competitor – what would you add?

  1. Creating a ‘smokescreen’ of patent filings covering technology of lesser commercial interest to make it difficult to ascertain the actual technology direction or new product under development.
  2. Creating a similar ‘smokescreen’ of trade mark filings to protect a new brand or new category for a brand.
  3. ‘Leaking’ misleading information to a known informant.
  4. ‘Seeding’ competitive intelligence sources with additional information that whilst true, suggests a direction or strategy other than the intended course

Deceptive practices always carry the risk of breaching anti-trust / competition law and, in my view are rarely warranted. But don’t let an opponent out-manoeuvre you by deception.  Look for facts, and specialist, local knowledge and verify them.

It’s been widely said (and attributed to Peter Drucker), that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Whilst Mark Fields made that particular phrase popular, Drucker definitely made it clear that culture will block attempts to implement a strategy that is incompatible with it.

So what does that mean for IP Strategists?

If you try and implement a strategy that is counter cultural for your organization – you will fail.

For example, try getting that team of hip, open source guru, software engineers you hired to build and protect patentable software infrastructure.  To them, patents are evil.  You need to hire a different group of people.  (Sure, you can try modifying their subculture, let me know how you go with that.)

Or try and get the team at that fast-paced marketing focused, brand factory company to pause and check for trade marks before launching their latest brand (or ideally before going too far down the brand development path).  Think instead about how you can build that safety check into their current way of doing things.

Everything you do (that’s everything) has to be done with culture in mind.

But that’s only if you want to be effective.


Everyone has plans.  Those who excel at implementing ‘the plan’ are usually operating on old information.
pexels-photo-346814.jpegIf you have up to date information and high quality analysis you can make your çompetitor’s plans irrelevant.
Competitor actions, on the other hand, are not so easy to avoid.
If you have the right process in place, then you have a fair chance of predicting their likely options and which they will choose.

Why I still help small companies

Almost all of my work time is spent working for multi-billion dollar clients around the world.  So why do I still bother helping small companies and startups?

Because I believe that collectively they make the greatest contribution to innovation and because every time I have a conversation with them, I get a variation on the same story. They have tried working with [name brand] firm and they feel like they have spent a great deal of money and got very little or nothing in return.

I can usually only offer a half hour call, and we usually manage to define a new world view together which sets them on a better path – one which is business focused, and strategic.

So what do we chat about in that half hour? Here is a small glimpse of some of the precepts that come up time and again:

  • Yes in an ideal world, you should get a top patent attorney firm to work with you from day one to draft and file a near-perfect patent / trademark / design specification.  Unfortunately, the world is not perfect, and try as they might, an external advisor is never going to understand your business as well as you do.  Business strategy first, IP strategy second.  If you have no budget for IP protection – and you truly understand what this means, then that’s fine. If you have only a small budget for IP protection, then be clever in doing the best you can with that – that is also fine. If you have to self file a patent / trademark / design, or instruct an attorney to spend a set amount of time to review it – that’s totally fine. It’s your responsibility, your business, your strategy, your future – do the best you can with the resources you have.  *This approach transfers to any business decision, and there’s no reason why IP should be different – whether it is protecting IP, to surveillance or enforcement, it has to fit the business.
  • IP Strategy is entirely based on your particular context. The fact that a competitor or another company did a particular thing is irrelevant to whether you should do it. (Though a competitor’s actions are always important to understand, it doesn’t mean you should copy them.)  Once you deeply understand your business strategy, your IP Strategy will follow.
  • Find an advisor who will work with you and educate you along the way. One that is confident enough to let you do as much of the work (and learning) as possible and to shape your intellectual property and your strategy to fit your business.  It turns out that this approach allows small companies to spend a lot less, learn a lot more, become a lot more independent and sophisticated as they work with the advisor into the future.

This is the only way that I have found that I can work with small companies.

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I can only assist a few small companies at a time in this way, but it has been incredibly rewarding in every single instance.

Patents – which countries to file in?

  1. List key markets in size order.
  2. Add countries where competitors will manufacture.
  3. Add other particularly important countries for logistics – eg. is there a country that everyone will have to transit through?
  4. Review and reorder the list based on overall strategic importance with the above factors in mind.
  5. Get a quote from your patent attorney or a specialist national phase entry firm (if you’d previously filed a PCT).
  6. Go down the list until you hit your budget limit.


Think IP Strategy's IP Strategy Playbook

How do you protect your IP Processes?  More importantly, have you ever done a freedom to operate clearance on them?

To kick off this short series of posts, here are a few insights on some of the top ‘patent process’ patent filers, what they are covering, and the most cited patents.

Given my 100 per cent client focus, I couldn’t really do this topic justice but I look forward to further insights from those with more time.


Top 10 assignees of patents covering patenting processes.

patent assignees

Were you aware of all of these companies and their patenting activities?

How confident are you that your own patent processes do not infringe any of these patents?


Top 10 patents by number of forward citations.

patent citations

Here is claim 1 of the most cited patent covering patent processes:


“1. A computer-automated method for rating or ranking patents or other intangible assets comprising:
selecting a first population of patents having a first quality or characteristic;
selecting a second population of patents having a second quality or characteristic that is different from or assumed to be different from said first quality or characteristic;
providing a computer-accessible database of selected patent metrics representative of or describing particular corresponding characteristics of each said patents in said first and second patent populations;
constructing a computer regression model based on said selected patent metrics, said regression model being operable to input said selected patent metrics for each said patent in said first and second patent populations and to output a corresponding rating or ranking that is generally predictive of the presence or absence of said first and/or second quality in said first and second patent populations according to a determined statistical accuracy;
and using said regression model to rate or rank one or more patents in a third patent population by inputting into said regression model selected patent metrics representative of or describing corresponding characteristics of said one or more patents in said third population to be rated or ranked and causing said regression model to output a corresponding rating or ranking based thereon.”


The more sophisticated a company becomes with its patent analytics, the more patents it will have to dodge, and file.  How are you placed in this landscape?

Obviously if you’re not in the business of inventing new patent processes and analytics, then there’s always the option of in-licensing them and there are plenty of great tools out there already.  Just check that the indemnity for patent infringement for using the tool is going the right way.


Top 5 IPCs

patent IPCs

These are only the top 5 of about 100 IPCs represented in this dataset which is surprisingly large.  It’s also interesting to note that the top IPC is 6 times more popular than the fifth most used IPC.



  1. Data is from 1969 through to 31 December 2015.
  2. Due to the quick data grab, the data is a little ‘dirty’ so I can’t give you certain insights, such as filing intensity over time.  However, I have cleaned out irrelevant records in the data presented here.

Thanks to Taylor Wessing’s brand new Patent Map, anyone can now quickly compare European jurisdictions on key litigation factors.

Those who have litigated in Europe will know that this comparison is at the heart of every strategic litigation campaign, whether seeking to launch a new product (and avoid injunctions) or attempting to stop competitors.

Key questions such as: “Which countries should go first and why, and what’s likely to happen and how long will it take?” are all readily addressed with the new tool.

As I’ve said before, understanding the terrain that you’re operating in is critical to a successful IP Strategy.  Well, in Europe at least, taking that step has just become a whole lot more accessible.

Ok, Taylor Wessing, now for the rest of the world…

[image credit:]

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