Patent analytics can be a crystal ball for business decisions
Regular readers of the IP Asset Maximizer Blog will recognize my previous post which provided an illustration of the predictive nature of patent landscaping to improve business decisions using Cox Enterprise’s $300 Million acquisition of Adify as an example. I wanted to follow up on that post because a recent announcement by Yahoo may demonstrate that, at least in some situations, patent landscaping analytics are so good at predicting future competititve activity that they can operate as a business crystal ball.
In that post, I predicted that Cox would likely experience substantial competition in the vertical advertising space as it seeks to capitalize on its purchase of Adify, and supported this assertion by providing a picture of third party commercial intentions by looking at patent filing data. This prediction was bolstered by recent a Google announcement that it was partnering with NBC-Universal to deliver targeted ads through cable. This was not surprising looking at the patent filing data that signaled significant investment by Google in the vertical advertising market. Moreover, I argued that Google’s activity should be a concern for Cox because a significant strategic purpose of Cox’s purchase of Adify is certainly to generate significant revenue in targeted advertisements to be delivered over Cox’s cable networks.
Alternative energy innovators can be identified using patent information
It seems that in just the last few months, reduction of US dependence on foreign oil has moved from an occasionally discussed aspirational goal to becoming a critical public policy mandate. Indeed, there is much talk about the energy policies of both John McCain and Barack Obama, each of which focus substantially on increasing the amount of energy obtained from within the borders of the US. As an interested observer, it appears to me that the publicity associated with The Pickens Plan announced in July 2008 (which I previously wrote about here) served as a significant impetus for increased public awareness of alternative energy as a public policy concern.
There can be no doubt that the alternative energy “train has left the station” and that we will begin seeing an ever-increasing amount of corporate investment in both wind and natural gas technology. This investment will be directed toward the participants’ technology becoming critical aspects of the burgeoning alternative energy infrastructure. Of course, technology development typically results in patenting activity. To this end, in my previous post about The Pickens Plan I suggested that Mr. Pickens may have launched a “gold rush” of patenting, which will likely be followed by rampant patent litigation.
The viability of my prediction was recently augmented by Matthew Quirk’s article in the October 2008 Atlantic Magazine entitled “Blowback.” Moreover, after reading this article, I now more clearly see the direction that this patenting gold rush might take. As an IP Business Strategist (more info here: The Hutter Group), I believe the future of patenting activity related to The Pickens Plan does not center on wind turbines themselves, but rather in the technologies that do not yet exist that are critical to making Mr. Pickens’ alternative energy dream possible.
Patent analytics can identify good promising M&A targets
Many companies today enter new product or technology markets through acquisition. However, this is far from a sure-fire plan for business success. For example, in 2006, Inc.com reported that 60-70 % of acquisitions fail and more than 90 % of acquired businesses lose value. These somewhat dismal results leave no doubt that acquiring companies need better sources of information to properly vet and select acquisition targets.
Of course, companies typically conduct extensive pre-deal research to identify good acquisition targets and use the M & A due diligence process decide whether to consummate the deal. However, such efforts are inherently limited because much about the target will remain unknown until the acquisition is completed. There can nonetheless be no doubt that more sources of relevant information will improve the probability that the acquiring company will make a better decision about completing the deal. Since the degree of competition to be faced in the target product or technology space is key to the ability of the acquiring company’s ability to meet its financial targets from the acquisition, new sources of competitive information could improve the outcomes of M & A’s.
Microsoft almost lost the Windows trademark due to lack of an IP strategy
This New York Times article entitled “A New Battle is Beginning in Branding of the Web” demonstrates that companies such as Microsoft and Dell are adopting aggressive Intellectual Property (IP) strategies that include forms of legal protection others than patent rights. The basis of this approach might not be obvious to those who consider these companies “technology companies” at their respective cores. That is, the product lines of Microsoft and Dell (and their counterparts) might more logically be considered by some to be the subject matter for patents, as opposed to trademarks. Nonetheless, the article confirms that more and more companies are reaching outside of the traditional mode of technology patent protection to develop comprehensive IP strategies directed toward creating IP value in multiple dimensions. It is interesting to find out that Microsoft apparently learned the lesson of the need for an IP strategy by almost making a colossal mistake about its Windows(R) trademark.
As detailed in the article, although Microsoft first introduced its Windows software in 1985, it did not file a trademark application until 1990. The U.S. Trademark Office initially rejected Microsoft’s trademark application because it found the “Windows” mark “merely descriptive” in relation to computer software. Significantly, Microsoft’s delay in filing for trademark application worked against it in the Trademark Office: by 1990, many people associated the Windows interface with the way in which the software displayed the user’s desktop. Microsoft kept arguing its case, and in 1995 the Trademark Office granted the Windows trademark application. In the meantime, Microsoft continued to gain market share for Windows software, and it would no doubt have been a huge blow to their marketing plans if the trademark had not been granted. Continue reading