Tuesday 31 May 2011

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

In this, the second in a series of features written for Keith Mallinson (WiseHarbor) for IP Finance, the author has some more positive points to make concerning (F)RAND licensing, pointing to its huge success so far in boosting technology and reducing prices in the mobile communications sector. Keith also explains the role of the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index in measuring competition within a market, showing how favourably this sector compares with those in which there is no such norm.
"(F)RAND works -- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

IP licensing arrangements have promoted—not inhibited—superlative market developments in mobile communications. I quantified the enormous success of mobile technologies, including GSM with more than four billion users and WCDMA with a billion subscribers expected this year, in my previous IP Finance posting (here). The rate and extent of market growth exceeds adoption of any other consumer electronic product including radios, TVs, VCRs, DVDs, digital watches and pocket calculators. Mobile technology licensing agreements on the basis of (Fair) Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory terms have ensured licensing of standards-essential technologies to all comers, with the vast majority of the IP owners willing to make (F)RAND commitments. Similarly, (F)RAND-based licensing has also been highly effective with video and audio codec technologies, including the MPEG standards, which are incorporated in all DVD players. 
Perversely, there are significant moves afoot to redefine, or even replace, the prevailing system of licensing standards-essential mobile technologies on the basis of (F)RAND.  A recent Federal Trade Commission report on the "Evolving IP Marketplace" airs complaints that (F)RAND is ill-defined and references demands for injunctive relief to be withdrawn from (F)RAND licensors. A popular refrain from detractors, including antitrust complainants, is that such licensing practices “stifle innovation and harm consumers”, or words to that effect. In contradiction to these unproven suppositions, in the real world of mobile communications, video and audio devices the stellar market growth quantified above, extensive technical and commercial innovations, significant competition and tumbling prices indicate an effective and efficient market. Consumers, in particular, are benefiting enormously. Redefining or replacing (F)RAND could undermine commercial incentives and deter many innovators from contributing to standards development. That would harm this vibrant market. 
Successive generations of mobile technology have increased massively in performance with end-user data rates increasing 1,000-fold in 20 years. 2G GSM initially provided users up to 56 kilobits per second with GPRS in the mid 1990s and 3G WCDMA provided up to 384 kbps in the early 2000s. Improvements on the latter, with introduction of HSPA and LTE technologies have already increased peak user speeds to several tens of megabits per second. In addition, new research from UK regulator Ofcom shows that LTE will provide 2.3 times the network capacity achieved by existing 3G technologies while using the same amount of spectrum, rising to a 5.5 times gain by 2020.  Other standards-based innovations have substantially improved voice encoding, reduced power consumption, and enabled multimedia messaging and location tracking. 
An unprecedentedly large and increasing amount of patented IP from among dozens of patentees is required to implement mobile communications in comparison to other standards. Whereas around 561 patents families were declared as essential, according to Fairfield Resources International, in the standardization of GSM with commercial service launches from around 1993, this figure increased significantly with the subsequent technologies. According to the database of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, more than 4,000 IP declarations have been declared as potentially essential to LTE. 
These technologies and associated network services provide the shoulders upon which “smartphone” devices, such as Apple’s iPhone, can provide a communications-intensive user experience with a variety of software applications. 
Research and development from a wide variety of technology companies continues unabated in creation of standards-essential and other IP for mobile communications. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), including ETSI and other standards organisations worldwide, is currently working on its 11th major standards release. 
According to Adrian Scrase, VP International Partnership Projects, 3GPP, speaking at the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam recently, the rate of standards development since Release 8 for LTE in 2007, with commercial services using that mobile broadband technology since year-end 2009, is being maintained. Ongoing standardization work includes convergence with fixed networks, internet protocol voice and machine-to-machine communications, as well as ever faster data speeds and network capacity improvements. 
The markets for mobile phones and the “baseband” communications processor chips they incorporate to implement the communications standards are very competitive. Despite the high level of patented technology incorporated in mobile communication devices, there is an ever-increasing number of manufacturers. Market share is spread much more widely than in some other IP-intensive technology markets that are not subject to (F)RAND licensing conditions, including PC microprocessors and the operating systems (OS) software used in PCs and smartphones. 
Concentration in market supply can be simply and conveniently measured with an analytical method used by the U.S. Department of Justice and other competition authorities worldwide in their antitrust and merger investigations. The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI: see below) is a commonly-accepted technique for measuring market share concentration. The HHI is calculated by squaring the market share of each firm competing in a market, and then summing the resulting numbers. The HHI number can range from close to zero to 10,000. The closer a market is to being a monopoly, the higher the market's concentration and the lower the level of competition. If, for example, there were only one firm in a market, that firm would have 100% market share and the HHI would equal 10,000 (i.e., 100 x 100). Alternatively, if there were thousands of firms competing, each with close to 0% market share, the HHI would be close to zero, representing near “perfect competition”. 
According to the Department of Justice, 
“[M]arkets in which the HHI is between 1,000 and 1,800 points are considered to be moderately concentrated, and those in which the HHI is in excess of 1,800 points are considered to be concentrated. Transactions that increase the HHI by more than 100 points in concentrated markets presumptively raise antitrust concerns under the Horizontal Merger Guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.” 
Handset and baseband chip markets are only moderately concentrated with market share significantly spread across several major producers. The chart shows HHIs in these markets that are around or below 1,800. They are declining due to market disruptions including Apple in phones and MediaTek in basebands who have entered the markets and grown to command 20% shares within five years. HTC has also grown rapidly to be a major phone supplier. Huawei and ZTE have advanced significantly in phones and lead in the supply of data dongles. New device categories including e-readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle and tablets, such as Apple’s iPad, are also disturbing the competitive environment in devices.

In contrast, the market for PC microprocessors, which is not subject to (F)RAND licensing, is highly concentrated. Intel and AMD have shares of 82% and 12% respectively with an HHI exceeding 6,500. Similarly, in the predominantly non-(F)RAND licensing of operating system software, Microsoft commands such a high market share in PCs that the HHI is around 8,000. The chart also shows the HHI for smartphone OSs, falling from 4,200 to 2,500 in the last few years. This has resulted from the demise of Nokia’s Symbian with the rise of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the latter enabling multiple handset suppliers to enter the market with advanced smartphones.

Prices fall relentlessly in mobile communications; including phones, voice minutes and data services. Global average wholesale phone prices, (i.e., excluding mobile operator subsidies) have declined since 1993, when 2G technologies were first introduced, from $560 to $130-- representing an 8% annual reduction. Meanwhile, a large proportion of devices sold were first enriched with text messaging, then with Swiss Army-like functionality including polyphonic ring tones, colour screens and cameras from the early 2000s, and most recently with smartphones functionality incorporating the computing power of PCs or games consoles such as the Xbox 360, launched only six years ago, to provide internet access, video streaming, on-line access to apps libraries, MP3 audio and MPEG camcorder functions. The average price per voice minute, in the U.S., for example, has plummeted from 75 cents in 1993 to less than 4 cents today-- equivalent to a 16% annual reduction. In my opinion, price reductions per megabyte of data consumption will be even more dramatic with latest technologies and exponential growth in demand. 

Despite all the positives above, some complain that royalties are excessive in comparison to other costs. In my next article for IP Finance, I will evaluate the value share received upstream in royalties in comparison to downstream rewards in manufacture of handsets and provision of operator services".

Monday 23 May 2011

Universities and intellectual asset management: a guide

I've just been reading a media release from the UK government's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) which informs me that universities can now access a new tool to help develop and manage their intellectual assets. This tool is a strategy guide, ‘Intellectual Asset Management for Universities’ -- and it's not totally new, since it replaces an older version, first produced in 2003.

According to the media release,
"The new guide provides advice and information to universities to help them understand how they can best use their institution’s intellectual property (IP). This can be an invention, trade mark, original design or the application of a good idea. 
Income generated through the commercial use of intellectual property rights can be worth millions of pounds. In 2009/10 £84 million was generated directly from IP at universities.[This sounds like a lot of money, but if you consider that there are 129 universities in the UK that's just over £650,000 per university.  The real amount per university other than Imperial College is probably very small. Does anyone have figures?] ...

One example of an institution which demonstrates how effective policies can underpin the commercialisation of intellectual property is Cardiff University, which has generated around £7 million in licence fees and royalties over the last five years through implementing its Innovation and Engagement Strategy. The university’s research has been developed into a number of commercial ventures such as MedaPhor Limited, an ultrasound simulation business which specialises in the development and sale of advanced virtual ultrasound training systems for the healthcare service. 
Since 2004 MedaPhor has benefited from over £1.3 million of investment and new product development grants. It has also created more than 40 high tech jobs in the local area. Its ScanTrainer which provides fast and effective ultrasound training has now been sold to 11 hospitals and academic institutions in the UK. The company is now expanding its distribution to Europe, the US, the Far East and the Gulf. ...
The booklet has been produced thanks to contributions from a number of partners including Research Councils UK (RCUK), the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Universities UK (UUK), PraxisUnico and AURIL (the Association for University Research and Industry Links).
The guide, which is 46 sides in total, can be found on the IPO website, here. It's actually very good for anyone needing to ease themselves into this area.  It's well written and clearly presented; some technical stuff, such as the explanation of the different Lambert agreements, is left to the annexes.

Friday 20 May 2011

Google buys up Modu's Patents

Modu logo

Modu was a small Israeli telecommunications company which attempted an IPO on the Tel Aviv stock exchange (see report here) but collapsed a few days later when the IPO failed, apparently USD 130 million (according to the report here). The 2008 investment round placed a valuation of USD 150 million on the company.

Modu made tiny little handsets which were no bigger than a credit card. Not much use either without a keyboard, but they were designed to be fitted out with jackets to add the functionality. Well it appears that the lack of a keyboard was their downfall since the company went out of business.

Modu Credit Card

And their biggest asset left? Well apparently the patent portfolio, as Google came in at the last minute to pick up around 100 patents for a price of USD 4.9 Million. Quite a price for a bunch of patents - but probably only the cost of one saved litigation if the patents ended up in the wrong hands. I've no idea how many litigations Google have pending related to their Android-based telephones. It's probably into the tens and it would not surprise me if the fees were beginning to have an impact on the bottom line of the company. Google has never been a particularly aggressive company in asserting its patent rights and so these IP rights will probably end up in a dusty box somewhere in a lawyer's office (or since it's Google out in the big wide cloud) until the opportunity comes to defend itself.





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Wednesday 18 May 2011

Emerging IP Monetisation Solutions: Institutionalization of an IP Exchange

Coming up next week -- indeed, on Wednesday 25 May 2011 at 1730 -- is a seminar on "Emerging IP Monetization Solutions: The Institutionalization of an IP Exchange", the speaker being Gerard Pannekoek (right), Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of IPXI Holdings.
"This paper examines whether moving licensing from the traditional bilateral contract model to an exchange model will lead to more efficient price discovery and, ultimately, more liquidity in the market for IP rights transfer. Using the recently created Chicago based Intellectual Property Exchange International (“IPXI”) as a model, we address the rationale for such an exchange and the mechanisms by which it can operate. We contend that IPXI’s business model, which is built around Unit License Right (ULR) contracts - which may be seen as a paid-up non-exclusive license to the purchaser- addresses some of the current inefficiencies in IP management. However, the market efficiency that is needed to turn IP rights into a liquid asset inevitably takes time to evolve. Without community support for and participation in the exchange, from both buyers and sellers, the market cannot be established".
The venue is Room 19 in the Law Faculty, University of Oxford, and there's an accompanying paper from Roya Ghafele (University of Oxford), James Malackowski (Ocean Tomo) and Benjamin Gibert (University of Oxford) here.

Further details may be obtained here.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Fruits of Labour not Windfall Gains in Standardization

In pursuance of its policy of strengthening its content relating to intellectual property as a value-generating asset with standards-setting bodies, IP Finance is pleased to host this piece by Keith Mallinson (WiseHarbor):
Fruits of Labour not Windfall Gains in Standardization Basic economic principles that underpin the IP system—such as being able to make a return on the capital, labour and time invested in what are typically risky developments of patented technologies—are as applicable with standards-based technologies as they are elsewhere. Many companies invest a significant percentage of their revenue, amounting to millions or even billions of dollars per year, in R&D of technologies that are then contributed for possible inclusion in industry standards.
While many companies primarily reap their rewards by selling products that implement the standards—with much of the standards-essential IP contributed by others— other companies rely on licensing to generate their investment returns. Large numbers of patents are often included within the definition of technical standards, raising a concern amongst some that the standard may not be generally available to companies for implementation on (Fair), Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND or RAND) terms.

Those who implement standards in their equipment are typically more interested in minimizing licensing out-payments than in maximizing cash licensing fees received and so may prefer relatively low rates all round. Accordingly, some of the implementing companies and their
advocates have been vocal in calling for regulatory involvement in licensing terms for standards-essential patents, including proposals to “define” the exact meaning of (F)RAND, impose limits on the aggregate licence fees for all essential patents, or to limit such fees to levels achieved before standardization (“ex ante” terms). However, if regulatory authorities were to impose such limits, the impact would likely be to impede incentives to contribute those technologies to standards or even to invest in such innovations. Imposing constraints, such as limiting licensing fees to “ex ante” levels or other arbitrary limits, will not only short-change those who relied on licensing fees to fund their developments, but discourage high-risk technology investments in follow-on standards upgrades.

Regulatory price-setting in the arena of innovative technologies neither reflects the market reality of commercial negotiation nor is it related to the costs, efforts and technical or commercial risks involved in developing those technologies. Defining (F)RAND according to an imposed pricing structure would severely limit the ability of licensors and licensees to negotiate bilateral commercial terms that reflect their respective positions and needs. There are many uncertainties involved in investing in R&D of innovative technologies.

Many technologies developed are never adopted. Even those technologies that are contributed to a standard and selected for inclusion, on the basis of merit, might never generate return on investment because of the standard failing or being overtaken by a competing standard. Further, minimizing the cost of licensed technologies may not result in a minimum cost solution. In addition to providing higher performance and improved features, incorporating patented IP into a standard may actually reduce the cost of implementing the standard. For example, patented IP might reduce the total cost of ownership to the end consumer of a product such as a mobile phone – including phone acquisition costs (with costs of design, development, bill of materials and assembly) and network service charges (reflecting costs of bandwidth acquisition, network equipment, operations, and maintenance).

The impact of such cost reductions may far exceed any additional costs in licensing fees. Market forces are best at determining the value to be attributed to any input component in such a system, including technology licences. Regulators should be careful to avoid favouring particular business models or making decisions on which part of the value chain deserves to make the greater profit, especially where dynamic innovation is concerned.

Commercial negotiations between companies are the most effective way to balance the interests of the parties and to establish an agreement that takes into account their particular incentives and business relationships. Arbitrary pricing limits or ex-ante terms cannot take such factors into account and fail to recognize the inherent difficulty in determining a “value” for a certain technology early in a standards process or in the case where no competing technology exists. If regulated pricing principles were enforced, it could make patent owners leery of licensing technologies until incorporated in a major standard or of participating in the standards process at all, resulting in inferior and ultimately more costly standards.

The principle of (F)RAND licensing has been broadly adopted to ensure that patent owners who contribute technology to standards agree to make licences available to their standards-essential IP to all comers on terms that are reasonable and free from unfair discrimination, while maintaining the ability to achieve adequate reward for their innovations. There will at times be significant contention between the patent owner and implementer about what constitutes reasonable licensing terms, but this is to be expected as with commercial negotiation on any input cost component and has, for the most part, been readily resolved through bilateral negotiations. In the rare instances where such negotiations have not been successful, contract
law is applicable to the (F)RAND commitment and the courts are able to deal with such disputes (although some cite examples of apparently outrageously high court award of damages to patent holders, such examples are extremely rare as have been demonstrated by independent academic researchers. See eg "Are Patent Infringement Awards Excessive?: The Data Behind the Patent Reform Debate" by Michael J. Mazzeo, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Jonathan Hillel, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Samantha Zyontz, George Mason University School of Law, available on SSRN here).

However, in the vast majority of cases, the (F)RAND regime and bilateral licensing agreements have enabled the successful deployment and rapid growth of standards-based products and systems. Some notable examples of such successful deployments include the GSM (with four billion users) and WCDMA (with approximately one billion subscribers expected by yearend) wireless telecommunication networks. The flourishing market for mobile phones, which have transformed our business and daily lives, is evidence of the success of the economic incentives created by the IP system and the market-driven FRAND framework for licensing standards-essential IPR.

In summary, there has been no evidence of “windfall gains” to patent owners impeding the adoption of any technology-based standard. On the contrary, the rapid and extensive adoption of WCDMA and earlier GSM telecommunication standards have demonstrated the success of the FRAND discipline employed by standards setting bodies such as European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in promoting widespread deployment of networks and products utilizing the adopted standards".

Friday 6 May 2011

Swiss book price-fixing: can it work?

Where old business models prove inadequate on account of new technologies and old IP laws, the usual answer these days is to call for new business models (whatever, and however effective they may or may not be).  There is however another solution, though admittedly one which may be of limited and diminishing applicability, depending on the technology -- state control of the market.

In March of this year the Swiss Parliament adopted new legislation to fix book prices. This law, which also applies to online book sales, requires the publisher or importer to set the final retail price of books that it publishes in, or imports into, Switzerland, compelling retailers to resell the books at the fixed price.

Following the passage of this law the Swiss Competition Commission decided to suspend its investigation of whether distributors and marketers of French-language books in Switzerland held a dominant position and, if so, whether they had set their prices at an excessively high level (Secretariat of the Competition Commission opened a preliminary investigation in 2007 into the French-language book market in Switzerland to see whether the retail price differences observed between books sold in Switzerland and those sold in France (between 25% and 35% at that time) were caused by anticompetitive activity).

On March 13 2008 the commission decided to open an investigation into distributors of French-language books operating in Switzerland. Distributors obtain exclusive rights to publishers' books and therefore any given book can be purchased only from its respective distributor or marketer in Switzerland. In view of this exclusivity, the commission considered that there were indications that the distributors of French-language books might hold, on an individual basis, a dominant position on the Swiss market, and that the level of prices charged for distribution services might be regarded as abusive pursuant to Article 7(2) of the cartel act. Subsequently, the commission widened its investigation to include Swiss recommended public prices set by distributors, in order to examine whether such practices (as well as the juxtaposition of vertical agreements between distributors and booksellers) could be regarded as illegal within the meaning of Article 5 of the cartel act.

The purpose of the new law is to promote the variety and quality of books, which are considered as cultural assets. Accordingly the publisher or importer has the right to determine the final retail price of the books that it publishes or imports. While booksellers are compelled to sell books at the final retail price they can still offer a general discount of up to 5% on the final retail price, as well as dropping prices for sales to public libraries, bulk sales and sales by book clubs. The law applies to the sale of books on the Internet (but not to digital books).

It will be curious to see how the controlled market for books fares in the era of e-books, downward-spiralling copyright protection and the accelerated closure of traditional book shops. If it works and keeps prices up, I suspect that this will make it more profitable for people to seek to circumvent it.  If it doesn't work and prices fall anyway, it may as well not have been implemented in the first place. Another interesting issue is the impact of this law on current and future contracts struck by authors with their Swiss publishers. But let's wait and see ...

Source: "New legislation introduced to allow publishers to fix book prices" by Silvio Venturi or Pascal Favre (Tavernier Tschanz), International Law Office, 5 May 2011

Thursday 5 May 2011

RPX flotation: brilliant investment or bubble waiting to burst?

I had the pleasure of a long discussion with Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) editor Joff Wild over lunch yesterday, in the course of which we discussed the initial public offering of RPX.   I agreed with him that the offer was likely to be well-subscribed, but expressed my doubts as to whether there is a commercial future for a business plan based on defensive patent aggregation -- particularly given the relatively short duration of patent rights and their high degree of vulnerability.  Anyway, as Joff predicted, the IPO was extremely successful.  In his blog today he writes:

"Defensive patent aggregator RPX Corp has stated that its IPO, which took place today, raised approximately $159.6 million, with shares trading at $19 a pop. This is higher than the original $16 to $18 forecast, and must mean the firm is valued close to, or even over, $1 billion. That is an extraordinary valuation for a company that has yet to have its third birthday and which has generated "just" $100 million since its inception. How much leverage does this give the firm's subscribers I wonder? Could RPX afford to allow any of them to walk away by refusing a request for a discount on subscription fees? 
You can follow RPX share price performance here. As of 5.45 pm UK time (12.45 EST), shares were trading at $23.65, up over 20% on the day. As I say, extraordinary. I cannot do the maths, but I wonder whether RPX is now notionally more valuable than Acacia, the NASDAQ-quoted NPE. Its market cap is currently $1.45 billion. That's up from $90 million two and a half years ago. Is it just me, or is anyone else seeing bubbles when they close their eyes?"

I agree wholeheartedly with Joff's comment and wonder what other readers feel. Do let us know.

Monday 2 May 2011

Can Western Multi-Brand Retail Giants Prosper in India?

It has been 20 years since India reversed its statist focus in favour of an open-market approach. The move from post-independence socialism to a unique form of market economy is surely one of the great economic success stories of the last two decades. From the IP perspective, the relationship between brands and modes of distribution is one aspect of this ongoing economic story. In that connection, an article that appeared in the April 16th issue of The Economist ("Send for the Supermarketers") attracted my attention.

It is well known that retailing in India is still woefully underdeveloped. Anyone who has been there can testify to the seemingly endless number of small shops (so-called kirana shops) that dot the Indian landscape. In part, such shops are tolerated because they are seen as providing a vital source of economic opportunity for a large number of potential small businesses, and the Indian regulatory apparatus has traditionally brought its full weight to bear in support of these arrangements. Allow in western-style retailing, it is feared, and yesterday's shopkeeper may find that he is no longer competitive.

All of this concern for social safety-netting comes at a cost for the consumer, who is deprived of the benefits of mass retailing. The result is what the article describes as "the most supermarket-hostile environment among big economies in the world." The difficulties include administrative regulation, poor road and train transportation, cold-water storage facilities, complex taxation and the high-cost real estate in many locations.

One manifestation of this policy in support of kirana shops are a series of regulations that hamper certain categories of foreign retail brands from functioning freely in India. Of course, regulatory restrictions are not new in India and are not limited to the retail structure. There was a time when virtually all foreign direct investment (FDI) was limited to a 49% stake by the foreign owner. The best-known example is the Indian car brand Maruti-Suzuki, which reflected the fact that the Japanese manufacturer could only enter the Indian market in the 1980s with a majority local partner.

Today, however, the focus is on the retail sector, where limitations regarding FDI in multi-supermarket chains are still in place. In particular:
1. There is a ban on FDI by multi-brand supermarket chains. This means that the likes of Walmart and Carrefour are still not permitted to enter at the retail level.

2. Such multi-brand chains can up wholesale warehouses, provided that they do not sell directly to the end customer. As a result, for example, Walmart has entered into a joint venture for the provision of wholesale and logistic services and appears to be seeking further such alliances.

3. In contrast, a single-brand retailer, such as Nike, can own a 51% stake in an Indian retail outlet.
These restrictions raise the issue of just how genuinely international any multi-brand retailing brand can expect to be. Granted, even the most successful product brands may be subject to local variation -- but the difficulty in adjusting to local tastes pales in comparison with adjusting to the demands of operating a successful multi-brand retail operation across different and diverse countries.

Carrefour is an excellent example, as its recent exit from the Russian market shows (for a discussion posted on IP Finance on November 12, 2009, regarding Carrefour's tribulations in Russia, see here.) Success, even retail dominance in one major market, provides absolutely no guarantee of success in any other foreign market. On the other hand, the fact that Carrefour has experienced difficulties in establishing a presence in the Russian market does not seem to have directly affected the overall value of the brand.

Circling back to India, the article describes the growth of a local multi-brand retail company called Pantaloon Retail here. As reported in the article, this company has stores in 73 cities in India and it employs 30,000 employees. It expects to reach revenues of $4 billion next year, which is still a small fraction of the total revenues of a Walmart or Carrefour.

My intuition tells me that Pantaloon Retail has no aspirations outside of India. If so, can Walmart or the like successfully compete with this brand at the local Indian level? More generally, are there limits for even the most successful multi-brand retail company at the trans-national level? Considering the strategic task of developing the house brand for such a retail company, must my focus ultimately be breadth or depth? Or can I reasonably achieve both?

Questions, Questions, questions!