This “Patent Use Map” method in visualization is particularly good for intellectual property managers and those in R&D or engineering organizations. Some CEOs also understand the matrix but perhaps a better visual form to use with CEOs is the four quadrant matrix that is typically taught in top business schools and normally associated with “Cash Cows” and “Dogs”. The “Golden Cow Matrix” figure shows this intellectual property variant. Because it is visually close to the one most executives are familiar with, it is sometimes a better communication tool.
In this model Cash Cows represent IP with potential to protect the current commercial technology generating cash flows. As such, a cow’s potential should be quickly assessed. If several cows are protecting the same products, consideration may be given to cutting some of the weaker cows by converting them to Question Marks (especially were financial considerations dictate). Competitor’s product should be monitored to detect potential infringers. The aim is to have at least one Cash Cow per product.
Shooting Stars are IP with the potential to protect newly developed technology expected to be commercialized in the near future. Shooting stars should be seen as cash cows of the future. A “file early, file often” strategy may be followed. However, this should be combined with a “review often and abandon if necessary” strategy. In this regard new filings should have a clear business aim and timeline for assessing the continuing value of an invention. Preferably new filings should be integrated into the project management process, with go/no go decision points provided before at least a 12 month PCT filing, 18 month publication deadline, and 30 month national phase entry marks from the initial filing. The default position for Shooting Stars is to “file early and often”; “review often and abandon if need be”. Convert or abandon applications and patents if invention does not potentially protect a commercial product within 30 months.
Question Marks are IP with potential to provide strategic value, such as excluding competitors from using alternative technologies. They’re not directly linked to the protection of proposed or existing product or process. As such, the value of the Question Mark should be regularly reviewed to ensure that the costs incurred by the Question Mark are justified by its perceived strategic value. Strategic value may exist if the Question Mark acts as a deterrent while the application is still pending by creating a potential third party right against competitors. Alternatively, the Question Mark may be used prevent competitors from using cost-saving technology with a different technology platform. In either case, strategic value is likely to be maintained even if the country scope of protection is reduced. The default position is to attach a business case for each family. Review value against the business case regularly (especially when costs are to be incurred), and move forward only in a reduced number of selected jurisdictions.
Finally dogs are IP with no strategic fit within the patent portfolio (I. E., Not linked to a current or future technology with no strategic value to the company). Dogs should be disposed of with minimal cost. If the dog has a strategic fit with another business unit internally, it may be transferred. If the external disposal through sale or licensing is considered, the dog should be reclassified as a Question Mark, with a fixed time horizon for external disposal set. If transfer of the Dog is not possible, it should be abandoned. The default position is to limit the amount of resources allocated and not let the Dog distract from the main strategic focus. If in doubt get rid of it.