I was out for a delightful lunch last week with Obi-wan Kenobi lookalike Ben Goodger (linked picture post beard) and two of his colleagues from EAPD’s London office, the excellent and charming John Olsen and a good friend David Ramm, a secret IP squirrel who is little known for having the vision to attempt to set up an IP trading exchange in around 2000.
Over lunch Ben described the Nortel auction as a Tipping Point for IP. The phrase Tipping Point comes from the intriguing first book by Malcolm Gladwell of the same name, used to describe the point at which a series of small and often unconnected events give rise to a seachange of attitudes towards something previously little recognised.
Gladwell uses examples like the Murder Rate in NYC and the rise of Hush Puppies to explain his theories on the stories behind the shifts. It’s a good question. Is Nortel a tipping point for IP? Will it take IP out into the light, where business leaders, boards, financiers and generalist strategists will demand sight of the business’ IP strategy and take a good hard qualitative look at the IP owned by the business, and how it compares to best practice in its IP risk management processes?
I was described by another good friend in the IP world, Matt Dixon of HGF, as carrying the scars of being an entrepreneur in the European IP world, on my back. And that’s why instinctively I’m not so sure as Ben that Nortel is a tipping point all on its own. No doubt another milestone along the way, like RIM and NTP another good story to tell, but not to my mind the one great event that makes every CEO of even a telecoms or networking business put IP in its top ten list of must-dos for his or her business on return from Summer break.
On the positive side it is great to see insightful commentaries on the auction in pretty much all of the business press. The FT ran this very good piece the Monday following the auction result being announced and then this piece on Google’s patent weakness a few days later. The WSJ ran this piece, the Guardian this piece, the BBC this one and Forbes this one. Lots of good comment and lots of attention. I liked this sidebar piece on InterDigital’s share price rising as it emphasised its own patent stock by comparison to Nortel’s (overtaken by events as Google is now in talks to buy InterDigital).
But is this a mainstream press wave? Or is it IP’s latest 15 minutes of attention, before the World reverts back to what it knows and has learned at business school? That is, not IP.
We, unfortunately for my own retirement planning, think the latter. It’s a milestone and there are many more of these to come before the business world wakes fully up. Which, if true, and I do sincerely hope that Obi-wan Goodger (here with beard, very very similar as you’ll see) is right, means that we need to think about what the next milestone could look like?
For us there are two major events to happen. Event 1 is the adoption of common reporting standards and valuation standards for IP. We’re going to ask another old friend, Kelvin King at Valuation Consulting, to write us a guest post summary on the current developments in that field.
The second is the adoption by the IP world of a common language to make sure when we say IP we all mean the same thing. And, associated with that, the expansion of the definition away from the patent-centric US litigation style of IP monetisation as being THE way to view the IP world and to profit from IP. I heard of an anonymous but highly respected IP officer commenting at IPBC 2011 how this US view of the IP world is putting the US at a competitive disadvantage. I’d probably go a step further and say that the inability to widen the perspective and view of IP within the IP community damages and taints the view of it outside of the IP community in the real world.
We’ve blogged on this theme before, but a refresher on what IP really is, and what a good IP strategy looks like, will be the subject of our next post.
Thanks finally to Nortel. You gave Charlie and I some real fun over the last few weeks and we will not forget you. But you’re under new and obscure ownership now and we’re unlikely to see you out in public again any time soon. We’re moving on too, but we’re going to leverage you as much as we can as you’ll make a good starter topic for a year or two yet.