In a world of large players, naturally many smaller organisations cannot compete directly with the resources of larger ones. So innovative companies need to know the landscape, be nimble and targeted in their approach, and recognise when it could be more useful to sell intellectual property rather than commercialise it themselves.

2015_FEB - NZ - Guerilla tactics key to growth

This approach is applicable to nearly all NZ companies – as we are effectively considered ‘smaller organisations’ in relation to the overseas businesses we want to either work with or compete against.

It’s a big world out there in the IP ecosystem.  At the recent Asian IP Business Congress I attended in Shanghai, this was highly evident with presentations from many organisations having turnovers in the billions of dollars. So competing directly with these organisations seems too daunting to contemplate.  However, guerrilla tactics can score value in unexpected ways.

Guerrilla Tactic I – Reconnoitre

Always know the layout of the land.

Australia’s premiere research organisation CSIRO does this well.  Christine Emmanuel, their Executive Manager of IP states openly that great science must be underpinned by IP assets.  Consequently, they actively recruit IP counsel with recognised business acumen.  

At the early stage of research CSIRO develops an IP strategy in combination with the right business model to engage with commercial partners.  How the IP integrates with the business model determines their success.

To engage with commercial partners, they reconnoitre the commercial landscape to determine the route to ensure engagement.

This includes knowing what weaponry the potential commercial partner has which could be useful to take the innovation to the world.  Plus, knowing what weaknesses there are in their defences into which the IP and innovation can plug.

Guerrilla Tactic II – Be nimble in your approach

This is best exemplified by a nameless client of mine which has technology that can be used in multiple and highly valuable industries.  Technology rich, but cash poor, this client needed external investment.   

So the tactic developed (after reconnaissance) was to choose specifically which of the investment partners they wanted to target.  The next stage is to develop information memoranda (IM) aimed at those targets.  

Following we are to craft patent specifications which highlight the applicability of our client’s technology to the needs of the targets.  These will be then referenced specifically in the IMs.

Guerrilla Tactic III – Know the value of your territory 

Many of the speakers at the IPBC conference had acquisition as part of their arsenal.  A staggering amount of money has been spent by large organisations to purchase IP portfolios from smaller organisations.  Sometimes this can be where the greater value can be realised for the smaller organisation.

As an example, Media Tek aggressively acquired patents over a six year period (2004 – 2010) as a defensive IP strategy.  During that period Media Tek grew from a $US1 billion company to a $US7 billion company as a consequence of forming strategic alliances and their IP acquisition programme.

This is not an uncommon story.  Therefore a lesson for smaller organisations (aka most NZ businesses) is that their intellectual property could be more valuable if paid for and acquired by a larger organisation, than if the smaller organisation tried to commercialise it on their own.

For Kiwi innovators, it’s not necessarily about competing on the world stage, but being wily enough to take a different approach and make that work for themselves, and the good of our economy. 

Kate Wilson is a Partner at James & Wells. Based in the Hamilton office, Kate is ranked in the world’s top 300 IP strategists. For more information or for expert IP advice contact Kate on Email: or Phone +64 7 957 5660 or 0800 INNOV8.

Kate Wilson James & Wells

As the go-to person for devising intellectual property strategies, Kate gets pulled in on big picture projects with James & Wells’ clients.

Business is in her DNA. Kate is the Managing Partner, and played a rather significant role building up James & Wells from a three attorney firm back in 1987 to New Zealand’s leading IP firm.

Even when it comes down to her hobbies, Kate is not one to do anything half-hearted. As an avid foodie, Kate has published her own cookbook Platter Chatter, featured on the TVNZ programme MasterChef and grows a lot of her family’s food on their lifestyle block. In addition to gardening, Kate plays an unconventional game of squash and is also an amateur artist.