Do you track your competition’s intellectual property?
What are the benefits of tracking your competitors?
As businesses develop, so do their ideas and offerings. This often leads to an expansion in a business’ IP portfolio. Due to the public disclosure associated with intellectual property (IP) rights, monitoring your competitors’ application filings may provide insight into their future offerings and business direction. You may then use this to inform your own business strategy, for example to launch competing products, or avoid an overcrowded market segment.
Trade mark applications in the UK require the applicant to either be currently using the trade mark, or have a bona fide intention to use it. Therefore, whilst not a fool-proof method, by tracking a competitor’s trade mark filings you may be able to anticipate the launch of a new product or service. The trade mark application also requires a disclosure of all goods and services relating to the use of the mark which may help you to anticipate the scope and direction of the new offering.
Monitoring patent application filings is another way to track a competitor’s IP. Although European and UK patent applications may only be published approximately 18 months after the filing date, this can still provide a valuable insight as it may take several years for a commercialised product to reach market. For example, tracking patents may provide insight into what your competitor is working on and their likely commercial direction, which could inform your own IP filing strategy. Furthermore, tracking applications could identify if one of your in-development products may potentially infringe your competitor’s patent application, if granted. This could offer you the opportunity to design around your competitor’s invention at an early stage.
Similarly, registered design applications can also be tracked.
Further potential benefits for tracking your competitors’ IP may include:
- Market intelligence: As well as tracking individual competitors, a broader market view can be gained from researching the general patent landscape which looks to survey all patent literature for a specific technology. Patent landscapes can be used to inform business strategy, strategic research planning, and identify key market players.
The team at Mathys & Squire offers professional patent landscaping services – for more information please get in touch.
- Identifying white space: Having an awareness of the patent landscape in your industry may help you to identify clear areas where there could be scope for protecting potentially broad and valuable IP.
- Monitoring/assessing risk posed by third-party patents: An awareness of competitors’ pending patent applications and new filing trends can provide an early indication if a competitor intends to encroach into high value areas of your business’ current or future product offerings. This may allow you to pre-emptively act or develop your business strategy before their product reaches market.
- Identifying potential opposition or potential filing of third-party observations: Monitoring the progress of competitors’ pending patents may provide a head start for formulating strategic attacks, rather than waiting to take reactionary measures. Both opposition and third-party observation filings can be submitted anonymously at the EPO, which can infer an advantage as the applicant responding to anonymous arguments does not have any infringement target in mind.
How to track your competitors’ IP
Trade mark and patent applications are disclosed to the public and can be searched free of charge on the relevant intellectual property registers (we have included a few helpful links below). By searching the applicant/owner of the IP and sorting results by date where possible, you can identify your competitors’ recent filings. The EPO also offers a free register alert service which allows you to easily keep track of changes to published EP and Euro-PCT applications. Mathys & Squire also offers professional IP tracking services – get in touch for more information.
- UK IPO – trade mark search
- UK IPO – patent search
- EPO – patent search
- EPO – register alert
- EUIPO – trade mark and design search
- Espacenet – patent search
The above is not intended to provide legal advice. If you wish to seek legal advice on any of these issues, please get in touch with a member of our team.
This article was published in Startups Magazine in June 2021.
Written by: Andrew White & Jessie Harrison