From the category archives:

IP services

A fourth week in the life – Cracking the IP Value Code

by Andrew Watson on 8 November 2009

(thanks Richard Boulton)

Phew. What a long long week. In fact October end to end has been hard work every step of the way. I’m not by any means saying that I’m pleased to see the back of it, but it’s been full of lots of ups and quite a few downs. I suppose though that I’ve learned through the years that in trying out something new the magic is to look for the upward trend, whilst treating the little downs as correction points to warn against getting ahead of yourself or becoming arrogant.

This week was full on closing out an investment round for one of our clients. We went from carrying out a relatively easy piece of diligence to managing an ownership issue, correcting old documents that did not reflect the parties’ original intentions. And, as usual with ownership issues, what looked relatively simple to fix took a little life all of its own, and close on two full weeks of work.

I spent some time on Monday with David Jones of Exponent IP chewing over the development of the IP market and how boutique organizations that share the same ethos (quality, professionalism, can do mentality, longevity) can help to grow the market by working together. I like David and Ben as they share these principles and are easy people to work with. This catalysing has become a bit of a theme for us at ipVA, particularly as we know that there are so many pretenders out there who talk without having gone out and done it.

This must be one of the challenges of a growing market, picking out the good from the bad. So I’ll end this week’s post as a call to fellow pioneers and to raise a theme that David and I talked about as one of the key steps in developing this market. That is speaking with a common language. We think that without this, it becomes very hard to communicate and understand even each other. Never mind to communicate with the 95% of the market who don’t get IP.

I was explaining to David that, in our view, the IP world fixates itself on those imposters of value, patents. Just because they are publicly viewable and every second advisory firm has a way of rating them, is this really an indicator of corporate value? Is it heck! If one understands where patents typically come from or rather don’t come from, it is bizarre to badge them as any indication of a corporate worth or surefire predictor of value.

We see all the time that the smartest engineers devalue their own ideas, patenting things that should be better maintained as trade secrets, and retaining as know how little implementation nuggets that would be great patents. We see investor pressure to file greater patent numbers driving a behaviour of filing everything whether good or bad. We see large corporates binging (thank you Craig Opperman) on filing huge patent numbers to help cross licensing discussions, whilst some cultures (France is good at this) spurn the system as creating fraudulent indications of the worth of inventions. In short, one cannot rely on the vagaries of human experience and behaviour towards patenting as giving a reliable result. Sorry IV, you will no doubt capture huge amounts of license revenues, but will you really carry the true debate forward? Will you crack the IP value code and start to explain what drives value in the best companies?

As an alternative, to work out the true comparative worth of companies, we need to work hard at obtaining this common language. And, for us at ipVA, this means following the accountants’ language. Intangibles is the word. This message in a bottle is to those out there who follow that same principle. Ignore the imposters that are patents as nothing more than one way that inventions can be properly protected. Not irrelevant, but just because they’re easy to see does not make them any more important that any other part of the intangibles tree. The accountants have actually given us a pretty good guide in the categories of IP assets able to be valued in IFRS3. Examples of intangible assets to be separately recognised and categorised within the purchase cost are set out in the regulations and include:

Marketing related – intangible assets are typically those assets associated with the market or promotion of a company’s products or services (trademarks, brands, trade names, trade dress, internet domain names, newspaper mastheads, non-compete agreements).

Customer related – intangible assets are assets, which are utilised in the development, procurement, management and maintenance of a company’s customers (customer lists, order or production backlog, customer contracts and related relationships, non-contractual customer relationships).

Artistic related – intangible assets relate to artistic products or services which are protected by a contractual or legal right, such as copyrights (plays, operas, ballet, books, magazines, newspapers, musical works, pictures, photographs, videos, films, television programmes).

Contract based – intangible assets represent the value of rights which arise from contractual arrangements (licensing, royalty and standstill agreements, contracts for advertising, construction, management, service or supply, lease agreements, construction permits, franchise agreements, operating and broadcasting rights, use rights such as drilling, water, air, mineral, timber cutting and route authorities, servicing contracts, employment contracts).

Technology based – intangible assets represent the value of technological innovation or advancements, and can be protected through legal or contractual rights (patented technology, computer software, unpatented technology, databases, trade secrets).

As comprehensive as could be….don’t you think? Does anyone want to join in the debate?


A week in the life of this IP strategist

by Andrew Watson on 19 October 2009

I thought it would be interesting to start recording a typical week in my life as a lead consultant in ipVA. I’ll try to be true to keeping a weekly record but the ambition may be beyond me. Or if this becomes too mundane or repetitive I’ll stop it. But I do think what we do and how we do it is a little different and therefore worth sharing.

Client confidentiality prevents providing any giving any client details, but I thought it might be a useful exercise to give people a feel for the sort of things we do at ipVA. So here has been the last week in the life of this strategist in the week beginning 13th October. Not all weeks are like this one, this has been a little on the brutal side and has packed a lot in, but it is becoming the norm.


A real fun day with a cleantech business we have recently started working for in the run up to a funding round with Chris and Stephen. One of the IP challenges with clean technologies and their IP is that the base technologies that they use are often pretty old. And this company is typical. A lot of work to do to create a solid IP story over the next 6-8 weeks. Assets to build, risks to decipher and explain and a governance and reporting program to implement. But we made a positive start, brought people to a common level of understanding and made a few people smile with “well I’d never thought of IP that way”. I truly love what we do. The day finishes with sending out the outputs from our meetings and a summary report and recommendations. A clear path forward we think.


At a media client all day working on an open licensing strategy and options to implement it. This is hard stuff and pretty new to me. Jordan has opened my eyes to the whole open content area over the last 12 months and this project demands a shift from a closed and highly proprietary model to an open or partially open model for a new platform technology. Some good comparables to look at though but some serious research and modelling to do before the right option will become clear. Jordan has pulled out some amazing research (lots of privately known data) on the revenue models behind the iPhone as a comparable that have opened the client’s eyes. We have a short number of weeks to get the story straight but this should be enough. I’m confident we will pick up pace on this one in he next few weeks.

Few days end much before 10pm and this one closes with a few catch up items. A VC backed client needs to understand a specific risk and we speak about a program to understand this by a technical assessment. A 9:30pm call with the client we are visiting on Thursday to agree an agenda and discuss one specific area of concern and a call with Stephen to discuss yesterday’s meeting and how we can keep on making our client smile.


A couple of meetings cancelled so some time to catch up on report writing. A 6am start to write a red flag diligence report (getting better at these… lots of practice) and a feedback session with the client around the end of the morning – all positive. Another diligence project we are running has thrown up a tricky ownership issue that could take a week or two to unpick. I think we can solve it though. We also picked up three new opportunities on Wednesday (the current run rate is around one per day into our funnel) from our network and an opportunity to contribute to the 100 day post investment plan of a VC investment. A really cool technology and one to watch. Even dinner with a mate on Wednesday evening doesn’t escape from some IP evangelism… he’s brought a napkin from a dinner we had 4 months ago when I drew out an IP plan for his company. I hope I’m not becoming boring. 1130 to bed and…


Ouch, a 4am start to fly to Europe on a new project preparing a business for exit with Dave and Rob. After an intensive first day I think we have a solid plan for the next 3 months. Poor Dave was flagging by 6pm as the business CTO looked as though he could go through the night. Rob, as ever, highly creative, drawing away. There are times, many times, when I simply love what we do and how we do it. I laughed with Maria, my wife, a couple of weeks ago, that we’d found the Rosetta Stone to help people with no IP background, understand and get IP. I know, laughable, but we do seem to make it make sense. An 11pm finish and then…


Bugger, another early start to fly back to the UK. Writing up our project plan from the day before till lunchtime, budgets to do, priorities to resolve… feels about right. Then it’s into prepping for a fund presentation we are giving 4 weeks from now, signing off the spec on a new product we are shortly to launch and discussing a referral agreement we want to sign for a SW provider. Just time by the end of the day to talk to an excellent possible consultant to add to our team. The last 6 months has been very kind to us with the quality of good candidates out there. We are now up to 16, with 4-5 more people with whom we are in active discussions. We set out to build Europe’s best IP advisory business. Maybe, just maybe, we will get lucky. An 8pm finish and a 75 hour week. Ugly but fun.

Its a little tough to switch off something that is just so damn interesting. Even my Saturday morning tennis with Maria gets interrupted with a thought of “what if we could do that, rather than that…wow!”. I literally do tire myself out at times.

Roll on Monday. This week is quite a big week for us with a few pipeline opportunities to get over the line. We’ve also skipped our regular Monday morning planning session for the last 2 weeks because of client commitments so back to the rigour tomorrow morning. The next month to plan out. More streets to walk, doors to open… it is like a pioneering mission sometimes but so much more fun now than 12 months ago.


IAM 250: The long tail of strategists

September 15, 2009

So it’s no surprise just by looking at the map of the IAM 250 list of IP strategists that the US leads the list for strategists-by-country. It’s a big place, a leading global economy, and one that has made IP and innovation a priority. But it’s not clear just how much the US leads the […]

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IAM 250: world interactive map

September 8, 2009

In our last post I developed some word clouds of out of the firms and professional associations out of the data in the IAM 250 listing of the world’s leading IP strategists that Joff and co. kindly set me up with. Next up, I’ve turned all of the world’s leading IP strategists as ranked by […]

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Delving deeper into the IAM 250: firms and associations

September 7, 2009

Joff and Gavin of Intellectual Asset Management Magazine kindly gave me access to the data behind the IAM 250 listing that they put out in June of this year. From our earlier post on the list (and the listing of our friends and our team in it), the purpose behind the list is: The IAM […]

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IAM 250 UK dinner – some thoughts

August 10, 2009

I went to the IAM250 UK dinner organised by Simon Edwards of bStrategic on Wednesday 5th August. Thanks to Simon for organising it. I knew some of the people there already. Though even with those I didn’t know, there was a sense of meeting old friends, as we seemed all to share the same passion […]

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ipVA in the IAM 250

June 1, 2009

This is pretty cool. Not least because ipVA made it on to the list, but also because I note that the list includes Tangible IP friends Jackie Hutter and Duncan Bucknell. IAM Magazine has created a new list of 250 of The World’s Leading IP Strategists, the IAM 250. In creating the list, IAM went […]

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5 steps for the IP world to take the press seriously

May 14, 2009

This post came out of a response to Joff Wild in his blog at IAM (itself a response to Neil at ipfinance), particularly this section: If journalists do not get IP and report it badly – or not in the way IP professionals would like (sometimes the two are not the same) – I would […]

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The IP ecosystem in Europe: IP generation, utilisation and anti-utilisation

May 12, 2009

This is a guest post from David Jones and Benoit Guerts of Exponent IP. Their discussion on the “IP ecosystem” as part of Benoit’s presentation in the European Catalyst webinar has generated quite a bit of interest, and they’ve kindly followed up with more. The IP ecosystem in Europe: IP generation, utilisation and anti-utilisation We […]

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New databases and cooperation ahead in Europe?

March 2, 2009

Following up from the Managing IP Webinar on Catalysing the European Market, (which you can watch the replay) we discussed about a whole range of ideas in looking at the European (and global) market for Intellectual Property Services. I especially liked Benoit‘s slide on the IP ecosystem in Europe, which had both IP Brokerage and […]

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