The age of innovation and disruption is upon us. It’s driven by a number of unstoppable market forces – political,technological, legal and social – that are all converging to accelerate the demand, development and entry of new innovations in every industry around the world. It doesn’t matter what industry your business is in, if it hasn’t been disrupted already, it will be at some point .

The market forces driving this disruption include maturing intellectual property laws around the world, changing legal systems making it (in many cases) easier and quicker to file patents, trademarks and copyrights, on-line resources making it easier now for anyone to develop IP, and a huge demand by companies around the world clamoring for new products, services and technologies that can be quickly launched into the marketplace.

Recent history is loaded with examples of industries disrupted by fast-moving innovation. The travel industry, once dominated by thousands of travel agents was disrupted by the Internet. Over 50% of all travel is now booked directly online by the end customer through various travel portals, websites and mobile app systems that make it easier, faster and cheaper for customers.

The result was the displacement of thousands of traditional travel agencies, and greater price competition between airlines hotels and other travel service providers. These disruptive technologies shifted the buying power to the consumers giving them tools to search, bid and book travel at the best and lowest prices.

To compete effectively and grow in this innovation economy, effectively managing and using your IP assets must be at the forefront of your business strategies. It’s no longer just about looking at your competitors products and services. It requires analyzing their intellectual property to find out where they are going. It also requires analyzing your own patents to make sure they don’t infringe on your competition.

If you don’t have an IP strategy, your business essentially becomes a commodity provider, attempting to compete on price. That makes it even more difficult to set your business apart, especially if your market shifts and you’re suddenly up against larger and better financed competitors.

The rapid pace of new IP and innovation means your industry can change overnight. For decades the credit card industry was dominated by Visa, MasterCard and banks that issued plastic credit cards used by consumers for all types of purchases. But then in early 2000, the Internet suddenly opened up a market and disrupted the entire industry. It was changing how consumers accessed and purchased goods, creating new demands for alternative and convenient nonphysical payment forms. The credit card industry was slow to respond, and new payment technologies, such as PayPal, Google, Apple and others, quickly entered the market. Credit card companies found themselves scrambling to try to catch up with these new disruptive technologies and services.

Competing in a fast changing market requires becoming more agile and flexible in managing your IP assets. It means thinking of other ways to leverage your IP assets through licensing, joint development, strategic alliances or cross-licensing. It means not looking at your competitors as competitors but rather as potential partners.

It requires making sure you have the internal and external controls to not only capture new IP, but keep it intact and protected. If you lack the internal resources, invest in outside IP experts to advise and guide your business on the best way to use and manage its IP assets.

Competing in today’s disruptive marketplace requires shifting from a closed competitive “make and sell” model to a collaborative “share and license” model. Effectively managing and leveraging your IP assets is no longer just something you can “get around to when you have time”. These are critical management tools for today’s business owner. Without them, you’re flying blind, unable to see where your competition and your market is going. Your business is unprepared and winds up falling behind as new disruptive technologies quickly gain traction with your customers, leaving you scrambling to catch up to survive.

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