Take The Hill While No One Is There
Updated: May 2
April 18, 2022
By Robert Cantrell - Registered Patent Agent
A well-known principle of classical strategy is to take the hill while no one is there. An adversary cannot beat you to an objective you already hold. Likewise, it is easier for an enterprise to secure valuable patent claims by filing patent applications before competitors enter the space. But how to know which space will have the most value?
One way is to align technology development with the way people buy. People select most products based on emotion and justify their purchases afterward with logic. Many technologists, however, develop their technologies around a perceived logical need without considering the emotional want. Consequently, they fall victim to the Mousetrap Fallacy: the idea that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. People rarely come knocking.
No matter how good your mousetrap, people have been getting along fine without it. Most of the time, they do not need it. Value rests in making people want it.
Inventions that take a new leap forward often depend on finding early adopters who want the associated products. For example, no one needed the first car. People had perfectly good horses. But a few people wanted a car. Over time, as the practical and social utility of cars took hold, people needed cars. But people still sought to fill that need with a car they wanted.
Patterns repeat. No one needed the first word processor to replace their typewriter. The slide rule worked well-enough when the calculator came along. A roll of film could be developed in just one hour when digital cameras entered the market. Hardly anyone on a college student’s budget, relished repurchasing their favorite vinyl albums on a cd? The market never asked for a smartphone. The need for these products followed the want, and ongoing wants shaped how best to fill the need.
Patterns of Technology Evolution tell how technology will likely develop. If you know how technology will likely develop, you can invent into that future and shape that future as your own.
Moore’s Law presents another well-established pattern of technology evolution. According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years. A corresponding body of patents are filed along the way, pertaining both to denser integrated circuits and applications of those circuits. If your inventions anticipate where technology will likely evolve, the probability that your claims will be valuable goes up.
Jimenez Law Firm uses multiple patterns of technology evolution to help enterprises move rapidly from where innovation is to where innovation is going. Our 30-10 Innovation process helps to turn our projections into enabled invention disclosures and patent applications.
Knowing how technology is likely to evolve is important for securing valuable patent claims. Because nothing is faster than being there already.
By Jose W. Jimenez, Esq – Former Chief Patent Counsel & Registered Patent Attorney
We have all experienced at least indirect effects of Covid. If Covid has taught us anything, we have to do much more now with less—fewer people, less money, fewer physical resources (office space, filing space at our disposal, less travel budget, etc..). However, we must also be ever more organized and strategic as we move forward. Such is a challenge of in-house counsel or the head of an Intellectual Property department: actually doing more with less.
On one hand, you know you need to continue to not only service your client’s current needs but, as Robert Cantrell posits above, you need to take advantage of establishing a patent position in many technology white spaces or gaps before your competitor establish positions. But how? The easy solution would be to go to management and make a business case for hiring another in-house patent lawyer—high risk, high reward. Even though your management may be open to your idea, it is difficult to justify expending current dollars on what they may perceive as a highly speculative revenue-generating or revenue-protecting result.
Game over, right? Wrong! In today’s corporate environment, no one in the company can sit on their laurels. Imagine if sales or operations, or even the CEO for that matter did just that when the Board nixes their proposal. Your job as in-house patent counsel is to find ways to add value back to your company by using patents to increase sales, protect market share gains, generate revenue perhaps through targeted licensing, or create new markets using Robert’s “take the hill when no one is there” approach.
So, start off with a plan that includes a fixed-cost budget (a couple of days per month tied to a fixed or capped fee, for example) with a target goal of identifying and filling your company’s technology “gaps”. Next, find outside counsel with previous in-house experience, as they come with the knowledge of how to work with in-house engineers, scientists, and marketing people—and with a willingness to work within the boundaries of your proposal. Finally, brush off the dust from your LinkedIn account (or other social media...) or Martindale Hubbell and find the right counsel to help you with your projects. Former in-house folks like us can hit the ground running and know exactly what needs to be done to get the desired results.
Give us a call or drop us a line, we have the depth of experience. It would be our pleasure to help.
If you would like to know more, please contact us on our CONTACT page.