how-to-avoid-a-weak-brand-in-a-post-patent-worldPatents. They’re great things aren’t they? It gives you absolute control over that product. It protects you from unscrupulous competitors. Life is good.

 
Have you given any thought to the day when that patent runs out? Maybe it seems so far away, that it simply isn’t on the radar. Twenty years off seems like a life time. Maybe just worry about it when the time comes. For many that’s the conventional wisdom. I’ve known companies who did exactly that. During the patent years things were good. Business was growing and the future looked promising. 
 
And then it happened.
 
Where did the twenty years go? You’re sure it was just yesterday that you got your patent and you were set. Now with the patent opened up, hawks are all around you. The protection you enjoyed has slipped away. What to do? What to do?! 
 
In hind-sight what you should have done was have a plan. As it stands today, your brand is at its weakest. You’ve sat back and allowed your product to coast on its protected status, not paying any attention to what brand you were building. Because of your monopoly status, the brand was lazy and maybe a little arrogant. Now, all that has changed and the marketplace demands to know why they should care about you. In the onslaught of emerging competition, you now stand the real chance of being left behind. Deemed irrelevant in the industry you invented! How can this be, how can you stop this?
 
What you should have considered long before the patent ran out was how to develop a strong brand that, when the patent ran out, could come out of the gate with all guns blazing. You had the time, and room, to define your brand as the only choice because it was superior. Your patent would have allowed you the luxury to establish a positioning that was unchallengeable. An enviable position for any business.  Early planning would have allowed you to grow your brand story at your own pace. But if you waited, you’re scrambling making up for lost time and opportunity. Depending on how the competition launches their attacks, you find yourself responding to them. It didn’t have to be that way.
 
If your patent is still active, then NOW is the time to embrace and grow your brand. Envision your company in a post-patent era and determine what you would like your brand to stand for. Take that vision and put strategies in motion that will allow you to build to that positioning. Having done that will remove a lot of the anxiety attached to lurching into an unknown environment you may have failed to anticipate. Planning early not only makes your brand stronger, but also keeps you grounded and completely aware of any fluctuations and trends in its marketplace. Defining your brand right now saves you a ton of aggravation later.
 
My client while failing to plan for the post-patent moment was quick to realize his error and put into motion strategies to correct it. Now, they have gained back lost market share and have surged forward. Their brand has once again established its leadership role. They fully recognize in hindsight that should have reacted earlier and could have saved themselves a huge dilemma. Many other companies in the same boat, didn’t come to that conclusion early on and are now drowning in waves of competition and are desperate to find a solution—any solution. It usually revolves around ‘lowest price’ and the inevitable race to the bottom and out. 
 
It doesn’t have to be that way. Put that patent smirk away and plan for the day when it is no longer there to protect you. It IS coming. You can either have a brand that refuses to succumb or one that panics and flounders. Start the conversation today.
 
Ed Roach
For more than 25 years, Ed Roach has worked with hundreds of successful small businesses by helping them develop unique brand positioning strategies that differentiate them from their competition. Ed appreciates working with companies who see the value of going beyond mere slogans and have a desire to sell from compelling positions, and consults predominantly with businesses facilitating his proprietary process, "Brand Navigator." This branding process effectively focuses a company's brand, delivering a positioning strategy that can be taken to their marketplace. He is the author of "101 Branding Tips," a book of practical advice for your brand that you can use today.