How IP Diligence Could Have Avoided Nokia’s Downfall

“History is the only true teacher”- this holds true for the tech industry, where the rise and fall of technologies have offered several lessons. One such interesting learning pertains to the story of Finnish tech major – Nokia. It is interesting to consider where Nokia would be, had it practiced IP Diligence to predict the future of smartphones correctly. Read on to know how spotting tech trends and monitoring IP activities in supply chain could have been a saving grace for Nokia.

Let us first understand the relevance of supply chain before moving on to the importance of monitoring IP activities in it.

What is a Supply Chain?

Nowadays, no company operates in silos. In the age of assembly-line production, multiple suppliers come into the picture during the process of manufacturing a product.

For instance, in the case of smartphones, companies do not make every part of the end product themselves. There are several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or suppliers involved. For example, a circuit board, battery, and operating system suppliers are involved in the smartphone segment. So this network of all the companies, resources, and technologies in the creation of a product is called a supply chain.

IP Diligence: The Need for Monitoring Activities in Supply Chain

Due to the rapid pace of innovations in the technology sector, it has become imperative for companies to practice IP diligence. They need to predict technology trends to remain competitive in the industry. An insight into disruptive tech trends helps companies to foresee the opportunities that can be exploited. So, monitoring IP activities in a supply chain helps in tracking breakthrough innovations that are relevant to your industry or technology.

Studying these innovations further helps you to incorporate them into your products or services to make them better. The process also allows businesses to analyze how innovations in the supply chain can impact or align with their objectives in the future.

Using Patent Intelligence to Track Supply Chain

While understanding the importance of tracking the supply chain, it’s equally vital to observe the indispensable role played by patent intelligence in the process. Due to the fast pace of innovations, it is important to identify them as early as possible to spot an emerging tech trend.

Therefore, patents or patent applications can be the earliest indicators of innovation triggers in your supply chain. Patent intelligence helps us to identify what is actually happening in the market because nowadays technologies first appear in the patent space. Similarly, the researches happening before the innovation phase are also critical and should be studied to identify a trend even faster. On the contrary, had Nokia practiced IP diligence to monitor supply chain disruptions, the story of the company would have been different.

Lesson: How Tracking Supply Chain Could Have Changed Nokia’s Story

Nokia’s downfall is no secret – the once-dominant tech giant was crushed by Apple and Android. This makes us wonder what the company could have done differently to stay competitive in the industry dominated by smartphones.

Nokia was a leader in the phone space. Its cellphones had a quality antenna, microphone, speakers, and display. However, the major disruption that happened in Nokia’s supply chain during its era was the operating system – android and iOS.

To avoid losing its position as a leader in the telephone market, Nokia could have captured these disruptions in the supply chain at early stages and assessed its impact on its business. Incorporating those innovations in its products would have allowed the company to stay competitive.

Nokia kept its focus on antenna and restricted their patents to this area only. The company was rigid about its operating system‘SymbianOS’ and did not bank on the opportunity of diverifying their patent portfolio in the OS domain. The telecom firm resisted the new operating system – Android, an open platform that was fully leveraged by other smartphone manufacturers since Google doesn’t operate in the smartphone space.

Therefore, Nokia’s rigidity ended its monopoly in the telecom space, allowing competitors to gain ground. The Finnish tech firm profoundly underestimated the importance of innovations in the operating system industry and people’s changing preferences. On the contrary, had Nokia been diligent towards the supply chain disruptions, the story of the company would have been different.

How IP Departments Can Help in Tracking Supply Chain

Now that we realize the importance of tracking supply chains to spot tech trends, it is also crucial to carry out the process efficiently. Knowing the crucial role of patent intelligence in tracking and monitoring disruptive technology, the role of an IP department in the process becomes clear – they provide accurate and relevant patent intelligence to business departments, offering them insights to make important decisions.

While IP departments deal with protecting and enforcing intellectual property, they can also join forces with the business intelligence departments to provide competitive intelligence. They gain this expertise via years of experience after working with inventors, research and development organizations, and IP law firms. Their inputs can be critical in determining new technologies that can affect businesses in future. Furthermore, they can help in assessing where the next technological disruption will come from.


The role of monitoring the supply chain to track emerging and disruptive tech trends cannot be undermined if a company intends to remain competitive in the market. Neglecting this step can topple even market leaders from their dominant position in specific domains – as substantiated by Nokia’s example. Therefore, collaborating with IP departments for accurate and insightful patent intelligence is the way forward for businesses to build a rewarding future.

Sagacious IP, a global IP research and consulting firm, offers valuable inputs drawn from patent intelligence to help businesses stay ahead of the curve. Our technology scouting services allow businesses to develop an element of corporate foresight to spot technology trends on time. We deploy internally developed tools to optimize the process of gathering patent intelligence.  To watch a webinar on the subject, click here.

-Dhananjay Kumar Das (ICT) and the Editorial Team

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