Treat IP as a legal-only issue (no. 11 in our list of IP mistakes)
They are legal rights, so why not treat intellectual property as purely a legal issue?
First, the role of most legal departments is oriented around defense and risk reduction. While defense is important, no doubt, there is a good chance that treating IP as a purely legal issue will set yourself up with an unsecure defensive position – given that the IP portfolio may not align with the business strategy – all the while creating a cost center within the company that is likely to become more expensive over time to maintain. Viewing this in analogy, tasking the legal team to advance your business could be like asking the goalies to score points without relieving them of the responsibility to defend their own net.
Without input from the business side, the legal department could end up following what it perceives to the company goals without having the perspective to align their initiatives with the actual direction of the company. Even with the most competent attorneys, they by default can become siloed, unable to know the whole picture behind the IP they have responsibility to protect. This puts you in the risky situation in which, even in times where legal opinions do take priority, such as litigation, you may discover your company’s basic pillars of IP defense, made out of sand…for example, by not reading on the most saleable, and therefore most valuable parts of the products they nominally protect.
This is never to say that legal professionals cannot have a business mindset, because they can, and many do. A business savvy attorney is an excellent asset as he or she can work with business managers to understand the salient point of business differentiation within their existing and planned products. This allows their company to advance products and associated IP into the market so that the IP can be focused on where responding competitors are most likely to run into it.
Even with business savvy attorneys, cross department IP management and corporate IP awareness are key ingredients to move IP out of just the legal domain. This requires however that business managers believe intellectual property can become an integral part of increasing business value by defining, for example, how you enhance the efficiency of your processes, improve you products and therefore market position, or reduce your costs, as well as avoid unnecessary risks of competitive encroachment.
To leverage IP for concrete business benefits it needs to have the complete backing of decision makers within the organization – promoting the integration of intellectual property members within the discussion of departmental issues and corporate strategic decisions.
Once intellectual property is taken into the fabric of the business and its planned successes, then it’s impossible to think of it as purely legal.
(This is number 11 in our list of IP mistakes and how to avoid them.)
[Image credit: ilkin]