Recently a San Jose Jury found A10 guilty of misappropriating intellectual property from Brocade to develop some of their products.
This was a huge win for all of the customers out there who are benefiting from technically advanced and innovative products.
If you will bear with me for a few paragraphs, I will prove to you why protection of intellectual property and punishment of those who steal it, is fundamental to protecting innovation and value added engineering…the heart and soul of the technology industries in the US and other technologically advanced economies.
Books like “The Earth is Flat” have fundamentally challenged whether companies that invest in research and development in relatively high-cost countries can compete on a global scale with the cost of labor in lower cost countries. I would argue that there are two unique weapons which have defined the standard for leadership in the networking industry and will continue to allow networking companies like Brocade to maintain that leadership. They are Customer Intimacy and Innovation.
These two are critical together because cheap engineering labor is available all over the world just like cheap labor to assemble PCs. Innovation, without a precise and insightful understanding of customer needs and use models, is simply building Science Fair Projects. The companies that have found new levels of innovation and value add in their market (and there are many examples), ALL have the concomitant skill of strong and precise customer understanding.
It is for this reason that isolated and rogue engineering teams that are prevalent throughout the world are rarely a factor defining where state-of-the-art products come from. It is the innovation which comes from mature skilled engineering workforces, integrated within an organization that exudes valid and insightful customer knowledge that creates the breakthrough products in any industry. In other words, not all innovation is created equal and that is what makes theft of intellectual property so egregious and counter to the values of global economics as well as what is counter to the benefits to each and every customer.
To sum up, if the world is allowed to devolve down to companies who simply repackage other people’s innovation or in some cases steal it, we will all be the losers. There are no shortcuts to building great products. Eventually, those companies that fail to invest in an integrated model of customer intimacy, true research, and value oriented innovation will disappear. The experience customers get by doing business with companies whose corporate mandate is to understand their customers intimately and develop unique products will ultimately be more productive, provide better business opportunities, and be substantially more valuable.