Key to Success: Know your Competitors!

When talking about how to make your business successful, many people advise to “know your business” or “know your market.” While understanding how your business works internally and among consumers is critical, neither of these speak to the other key player: your competitors.

Think about it: you spent years of your life developing a product or brand. You put in a huge investment to seek patent/trademark protection and to develop your market. The last thing you want to have happen is to wake up one morning to find that another company has taken your market with a related, but improved-upon, product/brand of its own.

So this begs the question, what should you do to prevent this from happening?

When tracking and assessing your competitors, a key stage in the application process for patents and trademarks is publication, which occurs approximately 18 months from filing for patents and five months from filing for trademarks. Information about the product or brand is made available to the public via online registry with the USPTO. (There are publications for all countries, so if you product is part of a worldwide market, you would want to monitor those, as well.)

Since applications are often filed some time (in some cases, years) before a product is released in the market, keeping track of your competitors by reading through the publications on a regular basis or running a patent search presents some clear advantages and can help protect your business from dangerous competition.

Most importantly, reading the publications can red flag a potential competitors or infringers and can highlight new or interesting trends that you can use to improve your own product. The information available in the publications vary, ranging anywhere from basic product design to a major technological breakthrough. When you use this information alongside big-picture analytics, you may gain valuable insight into competitor behavior and business opportunities.

Monitoring these publications should become a part of your business model if you want to compete in today’s fast-paced, many-players world. Big corporations often dedicate budgets to performing regular, detailed studies of competitors IP portfolios. Venture capitalist are now asking for patent landscape data before investing in a business opportunity. If this time and money investment is not realistic, you may want to hire a firm to perform a “trademark watch service,” which monitors your mark for you and alerts you to anything that may be potentially infringing. At the very least, dedicate some time on a regular basis to reading through the publications yourself. The wealth of information you can find in the publications may be just the ticket you need to achieve the business goals you’re after.