When managed effectively, intellectual property can be a critical growth driver for your organization, impacting branding, product development, revenue opportunities, processes, and more. However, intellectual property can sometimes be overlooked by resource-strapped organizations. In this article, we’ll go back to the basics and present a set of tips for managing intellectual property for business success.
"Apple's DNA is innovation, and the protection of our trade secrets is crucial to our success."
-- Apple Computer, Inc.
Intellectual property is the capital of ideas. It is everything within a company that’s left over after cash and tangible assets. These days, that can add up to most of any given company. It is “intellectual” because it is value that’s created from the neck up. It is “property” because it can be legally protected, bought, sold, traded, donated, collateralized or otherwise controlled.
Managing your organization’s intellectual property portfolio is just as important as managing your business. In fact it's a big piece in almost any organization's value puzzle. Anyone managing a business understands the importance of maximizing the return on investments in employees, equipment, products and services, but many organizations overlook or shortchange the IP.
It’s well known that the effective management of intellectual property can add a great deal of value to companies in various fields. Although many tend to think of patents and other forms of IP in strictly legal terms, they can themselves be valuable business assets which create both economic and social value for a business and its consumers. But that value is often attractive to malevolent actors who would rather reap the benefits of that value without properly licensing the IP, whether that involves the misuse of a brand logo or a novel technology. A 2013 report on the costs of IP theft pegged the annual amount of American economic value lost due to IP theft at $300 billion.
These are interesting times for developments and investments in emerging tech sectors. Ford invested $1 billion in Argo AI, and Fiat Chrysler teamed up with BMW and Intel in the race for the driverless car market. Facebook filed for a patent to make augmented reality glasses, putting it in competition with Microsoft’s Hololens and Snapchat’s Spectacles. The limits of cloud computing are beginning to emerge while the uses for 3D printing continue to grow each day to fabricate items like clothing or home construction materials. Genomics firms are suing each other over patents covering the sale of DNA analysis machines. In the Bay Area, The Mercury News reports that California is the leader in green tech but that the strong economy is putting more emissions in the air due to commuters – creating yet more challenges and opportunities.
Intellectual property is the capital of ideas. It is everything left over after cash and tangible assets, which these days is most of any given company. It is “intellectual” because it is value that’s created from the neck up. It is “property” because it can be legally protected, bought, sold, traded, donated, collateralized or otherwise controlled.
The term “innovation stages” tends to conjure up the vision of end-to-end development of intellectual property, from conceptualization straight through to patent approval. One of the most significant periods within those stages, however, is the invention disclosure period. Invention disclosure is a process in and of itself, with its own sub-stages and steps. IP management software makes a significant impact on the disclosure process, so we’ll hone in on its specific sub-stages for the content of this article.
There are some factors in your competitive marketplace that will always be out of your control, like a competitor’s introduction of brand new technology, or a radical change in consumer trends and tastes. Those factors will certainly influence how much product you’re able to move and revenue you will generate once you introduce something to the market, but there are other factors that can effectively raise the value of your IP by lowering the investment costs. Three primary influencers on IP development costs are the hours devoted to the invention disclosure process, the labor costs associated with those hours, and any barriers, mainly rooted in internal communication, that prevent organizations from introducing their product to the market.
In business environments that are fueled by innovation, diligent budgeting and spend management can mean the difference between sinking and swimming. While introducing new intellectual property (IP) can increase a business’s net worth from a revenue standpoint and by increasing the likelihood of procuring investor funding, it’s by monitoring resource investments that a business can successfully budget for the future.