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]

7 Comments on “Treat IP as a legal-only issue (no. 11 in our list of IP mistakes)

  1. A very good article. Nowadays, intellectual property is a means of doing business, good knowledge of the legal aspect is important but without a business assessment the realization of the benefits of intellectual property will be quite difficult.

    • Thank you for your comments Vetsi – I totally agree…

      Because of this identifying and communicating issues such as 1) how IP will help a company responded to an unique identifiable market need; 2) and/or how it responds in a significantly better way to market needs; 3) and/or facilitate further business (through research, collaboration, expansion into new areas, other); 4) and/or strengthen the company’s position on the market; 5) and/or other concrete identifiable business aspects; is key in assuring valuable IP is captured and correctly managed company wide – which in turn will help in the realization of benefits from IP management.

  2. Don’t under estimate the value of copyright when managing IP assets, nor the costs of not complying with copyright laws.

    • Hi Lesley… it seems like you have some experince onthe matter. Do you mind sharing some of your experince with us in more detail..?

  3. In my experience, the commercial practicalities of the business should always be paramount and IP should be integrated into the DNA of the business day-to-day rather than being the legal guardian (who always says no!)

    • Thanks for your comment…Going a step forward I would argue that intellectual capital (IC) in its totality forms a company’s DNA and that ‘IP thinking’ needs to be created – recognizing that the power of the business is in its intangibles and devising ways in which to protect the totality of a company’s intellectual capital in its totality. This can be done through IP, contractual agreements, creating a strong corporate culture, etc….

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