Mass customisation and IP creation

One of the really interesting business models to have emerged in the recent past is the seemingly paradoxical trend towards ‘mass customisation’.  Two really good examples of this have been:

  • Dell – their clever inventory and distribution strategy has enabled people to design their own computers online and have them delivered; and
  • Starbucks – which delivers a seemingly commoditised product, but with around 19,000 options.

Here are a few thoughts on some of the IP creation implications of a mass customisation business model:

  • when designing the business model, you should spend a lot of time really understanding what it takes to enable your mass-customisation strategy, then seriously consider filing patents to cover it;
  • if you think that the secret to your mass customisation strategy can be kept a secret and is not able to be reverse engineered (and I’m skeptical), then reconsider the patent decision;
  • as is always the case, brand and trade marks will be critical to the emotions evoked by your customers, so you obviously need to get them right;
  • if you do end up patenting the mass customisation enabler – then consider creating a separate brand for it to generate a relationship with this differenciator which has separate value;

what would you add?

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