IAM’s hunt for the top 100 IP strategists

by Andrew Watson on 10 September 2008

Intellectual Asset Magazine (IAM) is on the hunt for the top 100 global IP strategists. In response, the IPEG Blog, from the folks at the Intellectual Property Expert Group, asks the question:

How does [strategy as “direction and scope of an organization over the long-term”] work in “intellectual property strategy”, so, in other words, how do we characterize an “IP Strategist” as someone who successfully employs the art of IP strategy?

Their answer, quoting George Steiner’s book Strategic Planning (Amazon) with some IP additions:

  • Strategy is that which top management does (with its IP) that is of great importance to the organization
  • Strategy refers to basic directional decisions, that is, to purposes and missions (of its current and future IP)
  • Strategy consists of the important actions necessary to realize these directions (with its IP)
  • Strategy answers the question: What should the organization be doing (with its IP)?
  • Strategy answers the question: What are the ends we seek (with our current and future IP) and how should we achieve them?

This is a good description of the overall aspects of strategy, but this is still a bit broad in terms of the questions and in terms of what IP strategy entails. Since starting at ipVA, I’ve come to see strategy as how it pulls together four key areas:

  1. IP assets – these are the patents, copyrights, trade marks, trade secrets and so on held by the business. The strategy elements here are in identifying what is at the core of the business (especially as it may not be what the business thinks it is).
  2. IP risks – the business and financial risks involving intellectual property, such as threat of patent litigation.
  3. Licensing and collaboration – how are the licences in and out of the business structured and do they reflect the commercial strategy of the business?
  4. Governance / Management of IP – This is a wide ranging area containing things like the IP budget, employee / consultant agreements, contract management, and board KPIs for IP. The thread for all of them however is the operational side of IP and how it ties in with other parts of the commercial strategy.

These four areas then get tied together by the IP strategy, which very much reflects the bullet points identified above by IPEG. That level of broad thinking is also necessary to prepare (and execute) an IP strategy.

One item not mentioned is how much IP strategy is really a reflection of the commercial goals and strategies of the business. For example, one strategy may be to stay off the radar of a major incumbent player until you’ve reached a certain size while preparing for an inevitable round of tough competition as they become aware of your company. The IP strategy for this could involve making sure that you have access to patents to file a counter suit should they sue you for patent infringement.

Because of the link between IP and commercial strategy, I’d say that IAM’s top 100 will have lots of people that understand both as the two are almost inextricably intertwined. No matter the definition of an IP strategist, it will be very interesting to see what IAM comes up with as their top 100.

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Top IP strategists - further thoughts on IAM’s search | Tangible IP
10.09.08 at 1:39 pm

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