Too often firms are blindsided by technological innovations by competitors in their market. A lack of preparedness for such changes can lead to an extended period of super-profits for competitors and difficult times for those businesses which are caught unaware. Sometimes these storms are weatherable, but they can often mean a price war that cannot be won, at least in the short-term, and ultimately a reduction in market-share in the long-term.
When innovation is commonplace, as it is today in today's tech-driven society, understanding the developing technological terrain is of the utmost importance. What is often overlooked by firms which believe they have an excellent product or production process is that any advantages they have may be upended at a moment's notice. By engaging in what is known as "competitive intelligence," the examination of patents and trademarks granted to competing firms, one can enact a more nuanced strategic development plan by focusing on future developments rather than reacting to the market situation as it exists today.
Competitive intelligence hinges on the public availability of patent information on emerging technologies prior to their entry into the market. When patent applications are published after they were submitted, not only does the description of the product become available, but also details such as prior art and preexisting technologies which it either builds on or differs from. While such details may seem banal, they offer a wealth of strategic information as to what direction a firm may be developing and which organizations it will have to form partnerships with, all of which can be used to one's advantage when planning for the future.
The field of competitive intelligence will only become more important as time goes on and as data becomes more omnipresent, open and available. In most developed nations this information is already accessible online, making for efficient analysis, and with the nearing completion of several large US-led trade deals which make such accessibility mandatory, the fidelity of the available information from across the globe will only increase.