There is no doubt that CEOs are gaining a greater perspective on IP. There is also no doubt that the key question a CEO will want to know about IP is whether his enterprise has a patent or trademark to defend anything considered important at the moment. If his attorneys say yes, then that may be all he wants to know – trusting that the people employed to handle IP matters will take care of the details.
Is there more to IP strategy than that? Of course there is. What a CEO of any enterprise that depends upon innovation should ask is how well the IP protects and advances the customer experience he wishes his enterprise to deliver, and to receive a good answer for that. That is the longer reach of IP beyond traditional notions of protection.
It will still take some time to make the switch as a standard way of thinking. How long? I will give some anecdotal evidence that it could still be many years from now. Bear with me, because this may seem a stretch, but then think about it. I met with a retired US Navy officer the other day and posed a question. For hundreds of years, battleships dominated naval warfare until the aircraft carrier gained prominence in World War II – a switch of thinking as revolutionary for decision-makers, and obvious in hindsight, as the way IP decides business outcomes today over traditional brick and mortar strategies.
So I asked this officer why the powers that be kept all four of the Iowa class battleships as museums – all obsolete as tools to command the waterways when they were launched – and unceremoniously scrapped the aircraft carriers, most notably the USS Enterprise, the most decorated ship in the US Navy ever. What was his answer? Essentially, that old ideas die hard, and the brass still loves their battleships – the idea of ships-of-the-line deciding who owns an ocean.
So the question, is your CEO still of the mindset to use IP in traditional ways only – like ships-of-the-line – or has he set his IP free to capture opportunity and expand the whole scope of the enterprise through more creative strategies? The reason to do the latter is obvious, yet we still see a lot of the former and expect to for a very long time.
Image credit: Hemera Big Box of Art 1 Million