Home > For the lieutenants: Drive the innovation process > Time-to-market is more critical than IP

Time-to-market is more critical than IP

I know this will be a controversial statement, I accept there will be valid exceptions, but the trend is there: Time-to-market is more critical to commercial success than protection of Intellectual Property (IP).

Today’s imperative is to capture the mass market straight away. The days are gone when companies could be content with selling to price-insensitive customers first, then gradually decrease the price to capture a bigger and bigger share of the mass market. Why? Because in a “flat world”, competitors will copy the idea and capture whatever market territory has been left vacant. And it will happen fast. Even with a patented product, chances are that competitors will leverage their innovation capabilities to come up with a product that meets the same need without infringing on the patent. All sales people know it is much easier (or at least less costly) to keep a customer than to gain a new one. Therefore, whoever captures the mass market first wins.

This does not mean that IP aspects can be ignored entirely. Since the innovating enterprise does not want to infringe on somebody else’s patents, it has to take steps to ensure freedom of action: running a patent survey (to avoid infringing) and doing some form of disclosure of its innovation (to be able to claim prior art if someone else tries to patent later). The point is that these steps are a lot quicker and cheaper than patenting, and time is of the essence.

Some valid exceptions may come from the pharmaceutical industry where going around a patent may not be that easy, and the patenting steps takes less time than all the tests and field trials required to get the necessary approvals. This exception highlights a key question that innovators need to ask themselves: will patenting delay commercialisation? If the answer is yes, forget it, capture the market before someone else does.

  1. eric noyrez
    March 10, 2010 at 13:27

    I tend to agree. a couple of examples would probably help to convince the “doubters”


  2. Habib
    April 13, 2010 at 11:40

    I think that this blanket statement is dependant on a large number of factors not the least of which are company size and strategy… any small start-up looking for investment knows that IP is critical to give their company worth and even mid-sized companies know that their IP portfolio has significant value for investors. In addition, for companies with a large competitive footprint in their market area an aggressive IP strategy to ringfence key technologies and prevent competition can pay strong dividends. In addition getting the product right and marketing it well is a priority.. one example of this is the iPOD, Apple were not the first to market with an MP3 player but how successful has their product been? Another example of this was the Motorola Razor mobile phone which stomped all over Nokias dominance of the mobile phone market until that time.

  1. November 6, 2011 at 11:11

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