IP Landscape Analysis: A Critical Key to Your Freedom (To Operate)

It would be extremely hard to play a game of chess without knowing anything about the location of your opponents pieces let alone what pieces they still have in play (although, it might be interesting to watch)! So why would you play the game of IP and risk losing your freedom to operate (FTO) without knowing what and where competitors have opposing IP?

Okay, so YOU wouldn’t (because you are smart), but here’s the thing – we all know landscape analysis can be extremely complicated and time consuming, right? But it doesn’t have to be. Remember the 80/20 rule? Here’s a good case where it applies.

When you’re in the trenches with the innovators day in and day out you need a quick way to navigate the IP landscape, get around land mines, create new paths, and put up large fences to keep trespassers out – and your innovation in.

And here’s a simple way to do it. Create your landscape. Include your customers’ needs, the business’ needs, the market’s needs, R&D needs, technologies, products, services. Anything that drives your business or affects its success IS your landscape.

I like to use a landscape matrix with technologies/R&D needs across the top and business/market/customer needs down the side. IBM’s Advance IP tool can create these landscape matrices for you automatically, but a spreadsheet will work too. Now, search using key words that describe your landscape, known competitors and class codes in your favorite patent search tool. I personally like Innography because it allows me to quickly search companies and technologies, making it easy for me to find the critical IP gaps and identify potential leverage. Map the IP to your landscape at the corresponding intersections. Include your IP on the map as well.

Now you should be able to quickly answer critical FTO questions: Where are the land mines? How can you get around them? How can you defuse them? Where can you use your portfolio to create a path to competitive advantage through licensing or partnerships? Where are the white spaces to send your innovators forth to conquer? When it comes to communicating with the executive team, use the graphs from your IP tool to effectively show the gaps and opportunities. I'm then able to get the resources I need to move forward to both fill the gaps and seize opportunities.

If you’d like more information on performing simple IP landscape analysis please join us at the fall IAM networking meeting sponsored by the Industrial Research Institute on Monday Sept. 15th.

Of course, if you want 99.99% accuracy then that’s where a legal freedom to operate opinion comes into play.

This blog is written based on my own personal opinion and expertise and is not necessarily the opinions of IBM® or Innography.

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