Positioning Your IP

Simply having the next greatest product with patent protection is not sufficient for success in the market. You are seeking patent protection to enjoy exclusivity and to keep competitors out of your market space. And so are they. Eventually, however, the patents will expire and lower cost versions of the previously protected product will enter the marketplace. Knowing when this will happen to both you and your competitor(s) will help you position your product and IP for maximum value.

Charting Patent Expirations

In Part 1 I showed how to identify competitors and the key patents they rely upon for exclusivity. The first step to positioning your IP is to know where you currently stand in relation to those patents.

Make a chart of the dates when each of the key competitor patents will expire. Next, overlay the expiry dates of your product or technology patents. Now analyze the results.

Analyzing the Results

In many new technological areas, the expiration of key patents will occur in a relatively narrow time frame, often within a few years of each other. This is because companies seem to enter the field at about the same time. If this is the case, you will be competing head-to-head until expiry comes. After that, your branding will be the major force to promote your product.

On the other hand, what if there is a distinct gap between your exclusivity and that of your competitor(s)? In those cases you will have several important questions to consider.

If a competitor loses exclusivity first, will the availability of the once patented technology open the way for lower cost versions that perform similarly to your product? If so, will you be able to demonstrate a competitive advantage over the now more affordable alternatives?

If your exclusivity is going to expire before your competitors’, will the availability of your technological advances give them an edge for their products that you are not prepared to overcome? Will you be able to lower your costs to compete with imitation or generic versions of your product?

Conclusion

Understanding the relative timing of patent expiration dates is not only essential to formulating a business plan for post patent expiration, it is essential in the earliest stages of product development, when you are forming your product requirements document. Even before you begin actual product development, you should be able to estimate when you will launch your product and when you will lose exclusivity. Looking ahead to those dates, envision the requirements needed to make your product stand ahead of the competitive products you have identified during the time it will be on the market. Efforts in this area will ensure success in the marketplace.

Contact me for assistance with this or other IP Portfolio Management issues.

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