Broken IP business structures

by Andrew Watson on 8 April 2009

Andrew and I recently completed an article for Managing IP on Broken IP structures for the April issue, which is now out. Subscribers (including trial users) can now see the article up on the Managing IP site. The seeds from this article were planted back at the 2008 IP Business Conference in Amsterdam, when a question was raised to a panel (with Andrew), along the lines of:

How does the panel believe that a business’s CEO can be required to take IP seriously?

The answer we believe involves how the business as a whole views Intellectual Property, as reflected in its business structure.

Personality types

We drew inspiration for some of our thinking in this area from the Insights Discovery Learning System, which breaks down personality types into distinct groups (based on Jung and as those ideas have evolved), and grouped by colour:

  • Blue – Accurate, Ordered, and Cautious
  • Green – Team player, Patient, and Reliable
  • Red – Decision maker, Risk taker, and Results Driven
  • Yellow – Innovative, Sociable, and Dynamic

We took these colour types and applied them to “business personalities” based on the types of structures we’ve seen working for investors and directly for companies to help build IP into their business.

Blue IP

We saw that businesses tend to take a “Blue” approach to IP in their organisational structure and their approach to protecting and exploiting IP. And so the typical approach to IP looks something like:

Typical business organisation colour chart

IP is a purely legal function that is several layers down from the CEO and so hard to grab his or her attention, especially when competing those “above” the CEO, such as Investors, their board, and so on.

Red/Yellow IP

The Chief IP Officer suggestion – a C-suite exec in charge of IP – isn’t a new idea (though it is a good one). We’re building on the CIPO role and the conversations around it to think more broadly in terms of structure and attitude of the business.  Our alternative suggestion: Make IP a “Red/Yellow” function within the business in order to be more “innovative with IP”.


Through this, acquiring and maintaining IP rights – prosecuting patents, renewals, and so on – remains a Blue (Accurate, Ordered, and Cautious) function within an overall Red (Decision maker and Risk taker) and Yellow (Innovative and Dynamic) framework. IP as a business function rests with the Chief IP Officer (CIPO) or similar title reporting either directly to the CEO, or through more the more Red/Yellow channels of strategy or sales/marketing.

Of course this focus has been on IP, which we define pretty broadly (protecting “intangibles”). I know that there is a discussion to be had about this type of thinking with using the term intellectual capital and the perspective that brings as being much more inclusive than IP at first instance.

For more, and more in-depth, on our thoughts, see the full article in Managing IP.

What do you think?  Any feedback?

Special thanks and a tip of the hat to Don Jarrell of Digital Thinking, the good people at Insights for permission to use their graphics in MIP and for their conversations on this topic, and to Peter Birkholm of Into The  Zone for their contributions and discussions on drafts of the article.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

JS Hatcher 04.18.09 at 3:04 pm

Just to manually add a note that the CAS-IP blog has posted on their experiences (trackbacked above) across CGIAR about the indicators on whether IP is taken seriously at the senior management level.

Mary Adams 05.14.09 at 2:53 pm

Just read an astounding story here: about a situation that called for a high-level coordination of IP strategy, just as you have also recommended.

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