IP Strategy is a New Beast

IP Strategy is a relatively new beast. Even the definitions of its two parts “IP” and “Strategy” are not firmly defined. IP to some can be just Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) like patents and trademarks, or it can include other “assets” like know how and trade secrets. Strategy can be anything from an overarching approach to handling all aspects of “IP”, to a detailed plan to protect an innovation with a “picket fence” of patents. As an industry IP is still in development, and no part of it more than IP Strategy. While the language may take a while to solidify, ideas and approaches to IP Strategy, even if unharmonised, are being widely proposed. Two contrasting examples help catch the flavour of the moment.

At Berkley a Framework1 is published to help Academics navigate their way through developing an “IP Strategy” for a start up. IP in this context seems essentially to be patents – even Know How is seen as separate – though the alternative approaches presented talk about different combined approaches to using know how and IP (patents) to support a new company, a start up. Here, the detailed content is less important than the principle: this is IP Strategy education in the general academic context. This more than IP Strategy being taught to experts wanting to learn about IP and perhaps become professionals in the IP industry. This is mainstream use of IP Strategies by academics. IP Education in development in academia.

Another distinctly different sign of the emergence of IP Strategy is the nascent International Intellectual Property Strategy Association2. Still in the process of being established, INTIPSA’s inception recognises a growing need amongst practitioners to work together to establish IP Strategy as a coherent, self consistent set of business offerings. Clearly the IP industry is hampered by the lack of consistency – even in language identified here – that exists around IP Strategy. To meet the needs of business IP Strategy needs to move beyond the cottage industry it has been, and hopefully INTSIPA can play a leading role in that.

It is remarkable that with the elements of IP, like patents and trademarks, so long established, there hasn’t been more constructive effort to bring together the different strands of using them. And that it is the essence of IP Strategy: bringing together the different strands of IP (in the broadest sense) that a company has, and combining their use to the best commercial value for the company. Turning essence into reality – with differing views on what reality is – can be seen in both the Berkley and INTIPSA initiatives. They both are, however, steps in the right direction.