Strategy is a solution that takes you from your current situation “A” to a new situation “B.” ~ Robert Cantrell

outpacingcoverOutpacing the Competition: Patent-Based Business Strategy, by Robert L. Cantrell (Wiley, John & Sons, Inc., 343pp), is a book written for business-people and attorneys who are charged with developing business opportunities using practical patent strategies.

Patents on their own are just pieces of paper (with a fancy seal).  What really matters, is how you make use of patent rights.  Here, the author has provided a practical guide to the use of patents as effective business tools. This book is not an introduction to patent law but is a thorough discussion of key approaches to make intellectual property serve a company’s business plan and goals.

In Outpacing the Competition, Robert Cantrell sets out that a patent strategy is composed of decision cycles that include:

  1. Access (understand the situation);
  2. Decide (choose a course of action); and
  3. Act (execute the decision)

Cantrell describe the situation as this:

Decision cycles are not one-pass-through events. They are continuous cycles of assess, decide, and act, whereupon each action leads to new assessments, new decisions, and new actions, the complexity of which increases proportionally to the ambiguity of the objective.

The main body of the book then describes using the decision cycle as the primary guideline for how an organization should plan its patent strategy and organize its intellectual property.  Whether your organization is IP driven or not (and it probably is even if you don’t know it), there are lots of lessons here.

With the changing business landscape, assessing the situation requires understanding that all successful enterprises have a central idea that defines the company, its centers of excellence. As a model example, Cantrell shows how Federal Express set one of the best descriptions of a central idea set out in its tag line, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.®

Federal Express patents are oriented around fulfilling the promise of this idea. A review of Federal Express patents will show that they describe packaging, labeling, and logistic methods oriented toward getting packages from point A to point B proficiently and at high (i.e., overnight) speed. It’s entire intellectual property suite — the brand name, the trademarked tag line, the patents, plus trade secrets … — are all oriented toward delivering that promise.

Can you say the same for your business?

Drawing heavily from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a Chinese military treatise written in the 6th century BC, Cantrell shows how to use patents to your advantage. In one example, asymmetry is used as a strategic tool to take actions that line up a companies strengths against a competitors weaknesses, the idea being to engage a competitor on your own terms.

We highly recommend that you read Outpacing the Competition. You are sure to walk away with insights into business action that go well beyond just intellectual property strategies.

Robert L. Cantrell is a professional strategist and Director of Consulting at Landon IP, Inc. He has managed multiple consulting and analytical engagements across a wide range of technology sectors that include the communications, electronics, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, energy, and consumer goods fields.  He is on the faculty of Patent Resources Group (PRG).

Outpacing the Competition: Patent-Based Business Strategy, by Robert L. Cantrell, is available from Amazon.

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