What to do with Orphan IP?

“Orphan IP” is intellectual property which has not been commercialised. Usually relating to patents and know-how (confidential information) in the technology transfer area, it has been the subject of many and varied ‘revolutionary’ suggestions. Most famously, in Rivette and Kline’s 2000 book “Rembrandts in the Attic“. Many companies focusing on Orphan IP as a market niche have formed and abandoned. It’s a hard gig, mainly because Orphan IP is often Orphan for good reason. Often its better to just cut your losses and cull IP from your portfolio rather than paying for maintenance of an asset you will never use or worse still, spending resources trying to commercialise it when its too late.

A recent post on ‘Catch us if you can‘ referred to a comment by ‘Technology Transfer Tactics‘ about bundling Orphan IP in order to create synergies and outlicense it.

Now that’s all fine and well, but just to be clear, this is no panacea for IP that has never made it to market – and does not work a lot of the time. By the time most entities realise that IP is ‘orphan’ it is becoming old. So, tell me who wants to buy someone else’s second hand (protected) ideas, even when they’re packaged together with a few others of the same ilk?

If you have Orphan IP in your portfolio – then, by all means carefully review it and make a strategic decision about what you’re going to do with it – and bundling for outlicensing is certainly an option.

Better still, I would suggest, would be to focus on making better decisions about which IP to create and protect and exactly what you’re going to do with it and then cull it at the right time if it doesn’t work out.

2 Comments on “What to do with Orphan IP?

  1. Jordan – great point.  How do you get people to think it is valuable though?(I’m guessing you’re not including in this category donating the IP to get the tax benefit – which was in vogue a few years ago but has since been much more carefully scrutinized by tax authorities.)

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