IP Strategy and Management in a Corporate Environment
In today’s time, Intellectual property has become an indispensable asset especially when companies are looking to maximize their profits and growth. Patents, trademarks, designs or copyright must be valued at par with any other ‘real’ property that a company or individual owns. It is safe to say that investing in Intellectual Property is like investing in any other property that an organization owns because: (a) It is a valuable asset; AND (b) An organization can exploit it in a manner that can reap numerous benefits. However, like any property, Intellectual Property also requires constant investment. By that we mean it must be put to use to gain value out of it. We have seen so many examples of companies that have had a break-through or have been successful because of their clever exploitation of their Intellectual Property. One common factor in all such successfully companies is usually the fact that the upper management takes a proactive role in making IP-related decisions. Various research papers suggest that when the management takes a keen interest in IP then the outcome is usually a positive one. However, a company cannot just expect to gain success by involving the top management. It is equally important to derive a plan or an agenda that involves maximizing profits from the IPs.
When devising a strategy plan, the plan should involve the integration of all intellectual properties (and not just a patent-centric plan) it should take into account both, patent and trademark related considerations because that will involve creating competitive advantage, choosing the scope of strategy, differentiating products, effective brand protection, scope of setting barriers against potential competitors or infringers etc.
As with strategizing any action plan, an IP strategy (and its success) depends on inter-departmental help. By interdepartmental help, it is meant that all departments of the company must work to together in a way that not only helps to protect IP but generate it in a manner that can be monetized later. So, to have a wholesome strategy all departments must work in synchronization, right from the company’s R&D where all intangible assets are generated to the protection of that intellectual property by the legal department and finally exploiting through enforcement lawyers, branding specialists and licensing professionals. So, it can be categorized into a three-stage process: (1) Generation of intangible assets by R&D Department; (2) Protecting the intangible asset by applying for statutory protection (applying for a patent, tm or design); AND (3) using it/exploiting through the enforcement departments to generate monetary value of that asset.
A research paper from MIT’s Sloan School of Management quoted a survey where even the marketing and promotional staff and the legal staff agree and accept the necessity to work closely to have an effective IP strategy. The research paper suggests “five major IP strategy scopes” that a company can adopt for effective IP strategy and management, the five scopes are as under:
- Scope 1: Full Fledged IP Protection (Technical & Non-technical IP should be sought for every possible minor invention in order to block entire technology spaces)
- Scope 2: Patent & Trademark Control (In addition to patents for core technology, trademark protected brands should be registered for product differentiation)
- Scope 3: Trade IP by licensing or selling (Aims at creating large IP portfolios)
- Scope 4: Pure Branding (Every potential product differentiation must be trademarked.
- Scope 5: Support core R&D (patents, trademarks and designs are supposed to protect products that build on substantially sophisticated inventions
It is to be noted that these factors are not exhaustive as naturally there can be never be a “one size fits all” principle for effective IP Strategy, but there is strong research and evidence that shows that companies tend to do better at IP management with top corporate management’s active and genuine involvement in top-level IP related projects is the major success factor that drives IP Performance.
In conclusion, an effective IP Management in corporate environment will require management attention at all levels; it is a process that should involve top management in IP planning process in order to obtain higher results. It also involves interaction among senior IP executives and management committee which will lead to a higher performance.
So the concluding message to all the companies out there is to listen to your IP Team, listen to your IP Executives, give them a seat the table where all the major decisions are being taken, dedicate enough time to them and take an active involvement in IP Strategizing if you want to be successful.