Monitoring Competitors’ Patents and Products – Webinar
Webinar Topic: Monitoring Competitors’ Patents and Products to Strategize Better & Identify Opportunities Timely!
Key Points covered in this webinar (Monitoring Competitors’ Patents) session:
- To monitor competitors’ patent portfolio provides forecasts related to their upcoming moves and aids in preparedness.
- Tracking overall competition and not just the known competitor is helpful in identifying new entrants or entrants from a different market which may pose a threat.
- When we continuously monitor competitors’ patents, it provides a comprehensive view of consumer preferences and response in current competition. Furthermore, it helps in identifying untapped potential and assessing opportunities.
- Being updated about competitors provides insights into factors that do not work for them and should be avoided or considered for your own business.
Devika Saini, Assistant Manager LSC, Sagacious IP
Ram Tenneti, EVP, Sagacious IP
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Ram Tenniti: Welcome everyone to the webinar. I hope you and your loved ones are doing great amid this crisis. This is Ram Tenniti, Executive Vice President at Sagacious, signing in from India to welcome you all to the webinar today.
Today’s topic is “How to Effectively Monitor Competitors’ Patents and Products to Strategize Better and Identify Opportunities Timely”. Now, before I go on to introduce the topic and the esteemed speaker on our session today, I’m delighted to welcome all the participants from different parts of the world. We hope you enjoy the webinar. Your participation is a wonderful encouragement to all the efforts that we are trying to make to raise awareness and spread knowledge that has been honed by our industry experts over several years of working. We have been working with inventors, R&D organizations, IP departments and law firms world wide.
Our speaker of the session is “Devika Saini”. She is the manager with our life sciences team. She is a qualified Indian patent agent and she has over several years of experience in several projects related to patent analysis, competency in identifying and accessing IP in biotechnology, micro-biology, bio-chemistry, genetic engineering, food technology and medical devices, etc. So, welcome to the webinar, Devika.
Devika Saini: Hi Ram, thank you for having me here. 1:03
Ram: Great. Thank you. So, guys, before we start off the presentation today, let me ask Devika to give her remarks on today’s topic. Over to you, Devika.
Initial remarks of the speaker on topic
Devika: Thank you, Ram. So, I would like to say that understanding competition is really important to work on company’s own challenges and to make the best use of opportunities. So, even if a company feels that they know there competition, there can be multiple factors. Even if they are not tracking competitors, their competitors might be tracking them. So, it is really important to be aware of the business space and keep tracking competition regularly. This is to avoid any possibility of risk in the future and be prepared with the strategy.
Ram: Good. Thank you, Devika. It’s nice that you set the context of this webinar. So, before we move ahead, I would like to invite our listeners to keep sharing any questions that they may have.
And during the course of the session, or even after, you can share your questions via GoToWebinar question box on the right side of the presentation window, and I will definitely pick them up and ask them to our speaker after she finishes her brief talk.
I would like to also like to let you know that the participants of this webinar can also drop us an email at email@example.com and we will share with them our material or if you have any queries in particular, we will get back to you.
Now, let us get started with the main part of our presentation and Devika, over to you again. Thank you.
What is Competition Monitoring?
Devika: Than you, Ram. So, starting off with what Competition Monitoring is.
So, basically, Competition Monitoring involves keeping tabs on all the competitors involved. It means keeping track on how they are evolving in their business and are collaborating with other organisations and third parties. Also, how they are using their market strategies to move ahead in their business.
Before talking about how they are doing this, there are a few general pointers for most of the companies. They want to take care of that before making an effective business strategy. Some broad general pointers which need to be made sure of are related to:
How well they know the market, how well they access the market before launching their product or coming into the market.
The next thing is how well their value is in terms of the product value proposition or the differentiating factor which they have from other competitors.
Not to forget the profit potential which they may have in the future with respect to their technology or product.
Ultimately, in the long run, they should be able to do good business.
So, these are just four very basic points which every of organization would like to take care of while making their business strategy. And also to understand and get better insights on developing a good business strategy. This is very important, that the competition should be monitored for three main areas with respect to business, collaboration, and markets.
So, how the competitors, they are working on their business, how they’re investing in their R&D development, and the prices, et cetera. How they’re collaborating with other organizations, mergers and acquisitions, taking place, licensing, and all. And also, the type of events they are performing to market their products, and how the consumers are responding to their products in the market.
So, all these collective information can be really helpful in building a good business strategy for any organization.
How to perform competition monitoring?
Now, once we know that what competition monitoring is. The next question is how to perform competition monitoring. And there are majorly 3 basic stages in the process.
So, the first stage is regarding information gathering. Information from various sources can be gathered. For example, Patent Portfolios of different companies, their product portfolio, the technical literature. Anything which is there out there, published by those companies. It could be scientific literature, blogs, seminars, and any deals, partnerships or collaborations, they are working on. So, all that information is gathered and then it is analyzed, with respect to various points or parameters.
So, these can be competitor’s complete portfolio determining any new entrant in the game, any players which are emerging in the space, and also performing thorough market surveillance. So, analysis, it comprises all these stages.
And, finally, from the analysis what future steps can be taken. They are dependent on the insights which are produced. The insights can be on forecasting competition in the near future based on different trends which have been identified. And the assumption of how the trends will be a few years down the line. Competition can be forecasted, and it’s always a good idea to learn from, competitors failures or shortcomings. Also, to make sure that whatever untapped potential is there in the market, it’s best usage is derived for our own business.
So, moving forward, the first step information gathering can be explained from this table having different sources of information. Like, patent portfolios, research papers, or any scientific literature, then any information related to seminars, conferences, blogs, non-scientific literature. It might be contributing to their presence in the market, their marketing strategy, overall, that can be considered. Also, information related to how they’re dealing with third parties, investment agencies, accelerators, and the like.
So, all these sources can help in determining, how the competitors are viewing the future, what direction they are likely to take. And any new entrants which might be there, can be identified these kinds of information.
Analysis: Monitoring Competitor Portfolio
So, moving on to the analysis part, like, once we have all the information ready, then, the next step is analysis.
So, starting off with the competitor portfolio. Competitive portfolio can be analyzed when we already know who the competitor is. Most of the companies know who their competitors are, and it is a good practice to be aware of how they’re working. What are their future plans, and what directions they are taking so that there is no conflict in the near future and also not threat to our own business.
So, Patent searches, with respective competitors, patent portfolio can be performed for assignee co-operate trees, and inventors. Identify what investment areas they’re working on, how well is their application, how their patent portfolio is shaping up. Are there any post grand reviews happening, or is the prosecution stages very delayed or they are getting grants very easily.
Sometimes, the representatives are filing on behalf of the companies, and they are actually not really visible in usual assignee based searches. Also making note of the legal representatives with whom they are filing in. Also other information such as the kind of jurisdictions they are interested in, the strength of a portfolio size, and all that. So, all that information can be analyzed. And, finally, this can help any company or the client to strategize whether they should design around the claims or they should save themselves from any possible infringement threat, narrowing their claims and making the best use of rejected applications to develop on their own technology areas. Because all that filing all that filed application, which are not making up to the grant, can be used in better ways. And, of course, the market which they can target or which they might have to forego can also be understood and the strategies can be made accordingly.
So then, once this competitor portfolio is studied, the next step in the analysis is understanding new entrance. So, new entrance might not be visible if we’re just sticking to the original list of assignees which we are searching through assignee based searches or inventor based base. So, some additional solution analysis needs to be performed on the basis of keyword based searches, classification, and citation searches. So that, any emerging players which are not in the radar can also be identified. And also any scientific literature which is published irrespective of their being a patent portfolio, even that needs to be studied. So that they work from a very nascent stage can be understood.
So, knowledge of emerging players can be very helpful for the client to identify what are the aspirations of these new players. Are they really filing for ultimately getting grant or they are happy with the ‘patent pending’ label with their portfolio. And usually, with smaller companies, it is difficult for them to maintain the cost for keeping up a patent. So, how are they aspirations in terms of portfolio? And also to demining new inventors, which might be helpful for them as a resource pool. So, all this information is really very helpful.
Exemplary Comparison between Competitors
So now, there’s an exemplary comparison between the two types of competitors. There can be many more types, but a very basic, popular, kind of characteristic between two general types of competitors is shown here.
An Established entity with strong portfolio
So, one is an established entity with a very active patent portfolio, they have a lot of granted patents with them. Their technology is very focused on poor areas, and the very identifying feature of their portfolio is that, all the R&D is very strongly integrated with their business.
The patented inventions and pollux are quite coherent with each other, and these are the kind of entities or competitors who are actively tracking and keeping tabs of their competition.
So, one example in this category can be considered as IBM. So, IBM is one of those companies, which has the highest number of patents worldwide. And, as per some analysis their grant rate is very high with accumulative average rating of more than 9% grants every year. So, they have the highest number of grants success. The kinds of technologies they’re working on are really emerging like machine learning and cloud computing, etcetera.
So, this is one type of competitor, which will be quite readily visible when we will perform competitive search. But, on the flip side, there can be a lot of patents from this type of competitor. And there needs to be a definite demarcation on what kind of portfolio to be considered. And what kind of portfolio is not really relevant to our area of interest.
A New Entrant building on IP
The other type of company is a new entrant company who’s building on their IP. Their portfolio is mostly about applications and they have quite a low number of grants. Their R&D is focused either on completely designing it on their competition or they have something really revolutionary technology which is highly cutting edge. So, their business strategy is more on licensing and selling and technology transfer. And their IP portfolio is also at very initial stage.
So, such kind of company is not readily visible during assignee based searches. For example, in case a company needs a subsidiary of a very well-known company, it might not always be visible as their subsidiary and it might not emerge among the top leading companies during any analysis. So, to identify such kind of companies, the analysis should also be based on classification and citation based searches. So, that everything is comprehensively covered.
Third point in analysis is market surveillance. Since we all know that market publication or anything which is there in the public domain, it is very quick to be reflected while performing any market searches as compared to any scientific journals or patents which are published much later.
So, this is a very volatile kind of information resource. A lot of information regarding products and marketing strategies, partnerships, and litigation events can be obtained in general kind of searches conducted for the company. This is also the kind of search, which is not really very structured. There can be no limit to the kind of information we may want to extract. It all depends upon how well we are strategizing with our search and analysis.
So, the information which is reflected from this kind of analysis can be used by the clients to strategize. It also understands what kind of products are hit among the users, their feedback, their demands, and cost considerations, what are the long-term impacts and scopes of improvements, et cetera.
So, all that kind of information can be really helpful in understanding how the competitors are actually sailing in the market. Because that is proper medium by how their performance can be understood on a very large scale.
Case Study1: Sagacious helped to track competitor’s next strategy
Example on this line is a case study which was performed by Sagacious to help a client, European multinational in tracking the competitor’s next strategy. So, the client they wanted to commercialize their technology and before taking any steps, they wanted to get a thorough due diligence done. So that they are making the right move, and they already have some competitors on their mind, which they wanted to track. How well they are performing and what are their immediate future planning and all?
So, based on the requirement, a competitor’s particular portfolio study was performed to identify filings in last five years and determining the growth of their competing technology over time. The duration of prosecution which they had to go and all the related information. And then, the parties which were involved, the funding agencies, the collaboration parties, and the key researchers of their team, their connections and different kinds of projects, and the expertise, all that was tracked, which was also added by market surveillance.
So, all that information, all that analysis was performed for a span of two years, on a quarterly basis. Based on the analysis and the insights, the client was able to determine any possible infringement case they might have. Also, to identify potential collaborators with whom they could easily commercialize their technology. So, the analysis, it involved a comparative analysis of a few competitors on different parameters and skills so that every overlapping factor could be considered.
Finally, the analysis is done, and what all information or insights are there. They need to be understood to make the final actions, in terms of business.
Insights from Competitor Monitoring
So, the competitor monitoring part also involves few insights which can help in competition forecasting for the immediate future. And also, learning from competitors, mistakes. For example, if it is a mistake for another company, is it still a mistake for us, if we move ahead with it? Or if they have not made best use of an opportunity? Was there a reason or was that a definite choice, or they just missed an opportunity?
So, all that questions can be answered using the insights which are coming from all the analysis. For example, if we talk about a competitors shortcomings. So, there is an example where the company, Kodak, they made a mistake, or they almost had a shortcoming.
So, as we all know that Kodak was dominating the film Photography Market, and they were also one of the earliest companies to develop a digital camera. Their major issue was the denial factor that they wanted to save their market, which was entirely based on films. They didn’t then want the transition from film to the digital camera, or photography space.
So, that was one mistake they did. And their competitors must have made the best use of that shortcoming, which they did. So, in this case, the shortcoming was really put to good use by their competitors.
And another example, if we talk about untapped potential is that of Nokia. So, Nokia did not make the best use of an untapped potential. It was the first cellular network providers and their technology was at the forefront in terms of voice quality and hardware. But they could not shift their focus from hardware to software. Then Apple introduced iphone without a physical keyboard in 2007. They did come up with a competing product but by that time, a lot of edge was lost. So, this was one area where they missed on a potential opportunity. And this was made the best use of by another competitor.
And, lastly if we talk about forecast. There was some company called Pebble which was dealing with smart watches. They had that false forecast that smart watches market is as booming and as a promising smartphone market. And due to some miscalculations and not really good forecasting they lost a lot of their business. They ultimately had to sell to Fitbit. So, all these situations, they can be countered very well if a regular watch or regular monitoring is done. So that one time information is not lost and there is a regular flow of analysis and insights coming up. It helps in making informed decisions and deciding the next course of action.
Analysis Models to Derive Insights
There are various analysis models which can help in deriving insights.
So, the analysis can be based on ranking competitors with their filings over time. The analysis models can be used in various combinations, depending upon the objective a client has. So, another factor can be that they can be used to identify subdomain where the competitors are most active. Their on-going prosecution and litigation activity. And how well they are they are saving in portfolio benchmarking as compared to other companies. The kind of authority they have in their deals. Do they have more freedom in collaborations and licensing or they are a lot under pressure? So, all that kind of analysis can be utilized in developing and deriving insights.
And I think all these insights can be really helpful to businesses in preventing infringement, going on for product clearance. Whether to go for opposition, or any licensing, buying, or selling, or ultimately simply designing around their competitors’ technology. So, all that kind of decisions can be taken based on the insights which can be derived from the analysis.
Case Study 2: How Sagacious helped a company in Prioritizing Actions
Another example of a case study is that, How Sagacious helped a Fortune 500 company in prioritizing their actions. So, this client had a lot of information with them already. They had already been gathering a lot of information to track their competition. And this was a good thing because they were very far ahead of a lot of competitors. But on the flip side, they had so much of information with them. They were not able to understand how to make the best use of this information and how to have a business plan or strategy based on that information.
Sagacious break that down into plan, where existing information was studied to segregate any relevant or obsolete information into different categories. First positives were verified like, the data is the right or not. Performing supplementary searches, just to be sure and cross checking, if the information we just gathered is relevant or not.
So, existing information was finally cross-checked and then the analysis was performed wherein separate aspects, or separate parameters, which were important for the client were grouped into various categories, such as which had to be given immediate attention they could be state for short-term goals, or ultimately for long-term goals. So, that’s how the different parameters were divided. And based on those divisions, a plan was formulated to regularly monitor on those aspects.
So finally, the insights were refined wherein the client was provided information related to the opportunities they could have and how they could have better improvement in their technology areas. And the monitoring was narrowed down to specific key technical aspects, which were actually very relevant for them. This whole process will perform quarterly.
So, ultimately the insights were provided to the client regarding their competitors. Like their partnerships, the objective behind their partnerships, and whatever key actions they were taking, all that information in a very structured form and with proper insights. This was very useful for the client to prioritize what was required to be done first, and also, simplified for their convenience to move further with their business plan.
Setting Up the Monitoring – What all to be considered
So, how to set up the monitoring? There can be different parameters to be considered based upon the objective behind performing monitoring. It could be performed quarterly, biannually or monthly, depending upon the kind of information which is required to be tracked. And especially when it comes to competitor monitoring, it is very important to keep updating the list throughout. Because the starting list of companies which we are tracking is not necessarily the final list. And it should be narrowed down or broaden depending upon what our focus is to achieve for the company. So, the list is continuously upgraded.
How to Consume Actionable Output
So, ultimately all this information is used by the companies to move ahead with their specific goals, which they have. The company might want to mitigate risk in the future, if they think they are at risk. They might want to improve their R&D commercialization, or building on their IP. So, these are the main goals for the companies for which they might need all that insights and strategize.
Importance of Competition Monitoring
So, finally to sum up the importance of competition monitoring as compared to what typically SWOT analysis is quite better. When we talk about competition monitoring, a lot of times a typical traditional SWOT analysis comes into picture. Here strength, weakness, opportunity, threat, all these four factors are considered to identify and steady competition.
But this kind of analysis, it leaves behind a lot of unanswered questions. So, unanswered questions can be like, what if an attribute may not fit into any of these four categories. Practically not everything is black and white, there are definitely overlaps. There are definitely grey areas where one attribute cannot fit into any specified zone.
So, in this case, such kind of traditional analysis might not be very useful.
To give you an example, there can be a situation, for example, the technology of Smart variables. So, Smart Variables are highly focused on being associated with wearers’ body. And they are really helpful in monitoring parameters like heart rate and calories burn and a lot more stuff.
But on the flip side, they pose certain hazards which have proven time and again for various kinds of technologies. It can be emitting radiation, reacting chemically with the skin, and also leading to leakage or current.
These factors, when combined with a variable technology cannot be separated because that’s the whole point of a variable technology. It should be close to the skin and this thing cannot be just diverted into some strength and weakness aspect. So, in this case, this typical model or SWOT analysis might not be really useful.
Another point is that while searching for different areas of these four compartments, a lot of objective data can be missed. For example, if the goal is to just search for strength, the whole focus will be completely subjective on just to gather information. It is related to finding strength of a technology or a product then when it comes to weakness. We’re only searching for weakness when we are talking about opportunities we are only focused on finding them. So this way, a lot of objective data, which is not falling in any of this category can also be lost. It cannot be captured. Basically, it can be missed.
So, this is not a very soundproof way of moving ahead, and strategizing for business. A lot of important insights can be missed if we are just looking at four parameters to completely depend on for our next move.
But if we talk about regular competition monitoring. Data from various kinds of sources is extracted, the search strategy is not really about finding these four points. But to find anything, which could have any relevance, to understand computation and for the company. So, it could come from any stores, and the starting strategy, or the starting.
First, it might completely changing for something, as it might simply evolve into something is at the, at the end. So, this is one clear demarcation, or difference between a competitive SWOT analysis and what regular competition monitoring can be.
Another unaddressed point of SWOT analysis can be addressed with the competition monitoring is SWOT analysis, no parameters on priority. For example, if there are four points under the header of strength and just one point under the header of weakness. It doesn’t mean that the whole portfolio is very strong. Maybe at that point of time, the weakness needs to be addressed first, even if it is just for one point. It is just one weakness but it might be on high priority, rather than to be complacent about the strength of portfolio.
The typical traditional SWOT analysis might not be able to pinpoint that. But this can be definitely pinpointed when it comes to regular monitoring using data which is continuously changing and continuously evolving. Not every new analysis is completely dependent on the old data. And there can be completely different kind of information which might come up as compared to the previous one.
And finally, as I mentioned, in the case study earlier, a fifth parameter can be added. For that matter, any new parameter can be added in the analysis which is not there in the SWOT analysis. So, that anything else, which is not falling in this category can be considered as well.
For example, in the last example, I mentioned, the future goals or scope of improvement. Scope of improvement might not necessarily fall in weakness. It is good, there’s something which needs to be improved in the future, so it does not necessarily coming under weakness. It is not something which is readily available as an opportunity. It is something which needs to be worked upon over time.
So, there is no as such factor, which is clearly indicating scope of improvement. So, that kind of thing can be added to the analysis and separating time based action, some definite uniform actions. They can also be added in the analysis.
So, contemporary competition monitoring involves analysis which needs to be accommodative of any new supporting data. It is provided at regular intervals of time and is just adding value to the overall business strategy.
So, finally, to conclude that competition is not something that can be tracked by a set pattern or formula. There can be different ways competition can be tracked and all the ways should be considered for an effective business strategy. And while monitoring competition it is not really necessary to just keep tabs on competitors.
It is also a good idea that we learn from their mistakes, and use whatever opportunities they have missed that can be used. So there’s a lot of learning which is involved in this. So all in all, a regular timely monitoring is really beneficial in the long run.
So that’s all from my side. And there’s another webinar following up. This is related to monitoring for effective commercialization and monetization. Please let me know if there are any questions.
Ram: Sure. Thank you. Thank you, Devika those insights were really great, and I think most of our listeners, and audience have some great questions. So let me, as we are overshooting the time already by almost around 8 to 10 minutes. I’ll try to quickly wrap things up. But I will definitely like to hear some answers on some questions that I think are good.
Questions and Answers
How can we identify our future competitor?
So, the first one being, one of listeners is asking, how can we identify our future competitor?
Devika: So, if there are already competitors known by a company, that is a good thing. But, even if the competitors are not known, before identifying any company. We can identify what the competition is, in general, in the technology space of interests.
So, for that, we can keep tabs on the recent updates and advancements. Some organizations, which are known, but not our competitors, they may become our competitors in the future. So keeping tab on whatever is happening in the current space can actually help in identifying the companies which can eventually become our competition.
So, for this reason, business in core areas of interests should be monitored. Emphasis should be given to the demining new entrants.
How do you monitor competitors if they don’t have any patents?
Ram: Fair enough and how do you monitor competitors if they don’t have any patents?
Devika: OK, so as I mentioned in this study that while monitoring, it is not just about understanding the patent portfolio. A lot of competitors might not have patents, but they do have products and their products can be studied.
Like, whatever kind of features they have, the quality of their products, the benefits, or the problems which they are solving. So, all these things can be mapped and analyzed. And that can be used to understand that there whether they are performing better than us, or they’re not performing better than us. This can be really helpful.
And apart from this, there can be some information related to the resources which can be understood. Like the kind of people working, engineers working in their team, their expertise, et cetera. So, they can be different ways of identifying competition and just sticking to patent portfolio is not required. It could be any form.
What is average time taken by a company like Sagacious to make competitor portfolio report?
Ram: OK, that sounds good to me. Devika, thank you for the inputs. One of our listeners is asking. What is the average time that a company like Sagacious and your team would take in making a competitor portfolio report of the sort that we were talking?
Devika: So, ultimately, the timeline will depend upon the objective. Actually what the objective of the client is, for example, they want to commercialize their product. They’re already ready with the product and they just want to know what kind of licenses and partnerships they would like to go for. Or it could be about just identifying a market level information. So, there could be different object, and based on that the efforts are calculated accordingly.
So, there can be any number of modifications or customizations involved in the preparing the whole project plan. And while keeping them involved with all the inputs and feedbacks are common, timeline, which is acceptable to both, it can be developed.
Ram: Well, thank you. Thank you, Devika for your time. Those were lovely insights. We’re sure that all our listeners are pretty much happy with the kind of information and insights that we’ve provided today. And although there are many questions, but keeping the time constrained, as we are already overshooting the time, I will quickly try to wrap up the session.
So, thank you. This has been a really good session. I’m sure everyone has taken great takeaways from it. And if you have any questions, please feel free to get back to us and write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I want to extend a very, very big thank you to everyone who has been here today, and who has helped this, can start on time and finish a little bit late. But yes, we are right on time. I really appreciate that. Thank you very much. Please join us in our next webinar. Have a great day, and take care of yourself and your loved ones. Thank you.