For most organizations, intellectual property is the most valuable asset they own. I’ll say it again. IP is the most valuable asset they own.
What about their brand? Well, a brand can be a slippery thing. The roadside is littered with brands that were valuable, when the companies that owned them were executing effectively. What about property, plant and equipment? Possibly. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, only 11% of U.S. GDP is from manufacturing. So, unless you are a manufacturer, and from the looks of things not many businesses are anymore, it’s pretty clear that IP, and not PPE, is the key asset class that really sets a business apart from its competitors. Interestingly, once intellectual property assets are developed or acquired in the form of patent grants and purchases, there is a perception that they should be quietly tucked away in the portfolio. Why is that? Sure you may want to mask part of your organization’s strategy. And you don’t want to encourage negative activities like picket patenting around your invention or “hostile” IPRs. But keeping quiet about the whole IP organization’s activities and the entire portfolio? There is a difference between being cautious with elements of the portfolio and creating a careful balance that allows you to demonstrate the IP team’s value to the C-Suite. We’ll come back to this thought in a minute.
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Leverage a Communication Strategy to Elevate IP’s Value
So why do businesses seek out the formal ownership of IP? Well, it appears that they want the freedom to innovate and operate. That’s fair. It can be a real value killer for a business to invent something desirable and then have another group patent over your invention and impair your use of it. The other major reason is to provide your organization an advantage, forcing competitors to invent something else or to pay you licensing fees to leverage your invention. That’s also fair. But there should be a third reason. By making a businesses’ stakeholders aware of the purchase or granting of IP, they have a better understanding regarding said company’s activities. If you take the next step and explain what the IP’s team’s and the portfolio’s value is to the business — and provide the context of its importance within the company’s industry — well then you are projecting vision. And companies that are executing effectively against a vision are assigned a higher valuation multiple by investors. In his article, “Innovation Versus Information: How the Shifting Definition of ‘News’ and a Media-Shy IP Community are Driving the Anti-Patent Narrative” Gene Quinn discusses the dangers of not effectively communicating about IP strategies and portfolios. “Unless patent owners and innovators wise up, as newsrooms continue to decrease in size, we should all expect more, not less, negative media coverage about patents.”
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If you don’t care what the shrinking pool of reporters know, why should they care? Those writers and editors that already cover the IP community, like this publication, are fairly straightforward to work with, if you know what they need. Business and industry trade reporters require an ongoing, educational series of communications and touchpoints regarding IP and your company’s associated activities. Become a trusted resource. So, the IP community can continue on its current path, potentially encouraging a significant backlash against, or impairment of, patents and copyrights. The alternative is to increase communication regarding organizations’ IP strategies, acquisitions and other activities — increasing a company’s overall value. As with any other issue or opportunity, IP community members can positively leverage it, or get run over by it.
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