Before we delve into the components of the intellectual property management program I outlined last week, let’s take a moment to talk about what it really means to manage IP. Companies manage assets every day, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. They have systems and processes in place to manage finances, taxes, people, property, raw materials, data, and a host of other things. Unfortunately, too many companies are not taking the same level of care when it comes to managing their intellectual property. This is a problem that I am dedicated to solving.
Let’s look at some of the underlying causes of IP mismanagement.
1. If you don’t understand IP, you won’t manage it well. Too many organizations don’t understand the purpose of intellectual property. They don’t know what it is, why they have it, and what it can do for them.
2. If you’re not in the game, you won’t manage it well. Many large companies put their IP in the hands of in-house lawyers. These lawyers tend to sit on the outskirts of the corporation with little influence. They are predominantly reactive. When called upon, they answer questions about IP matters, but for the most part they spend a majority of their time tracking data, i.e. dates and serial numbers, and not enough time managing the assets they have been put in charge of.
3. If you don’t value it, you won’t manage it well. Issue #2 might be compounded if the company’s attorneys actually prosecute their patent applications. In this situation, the focus is on getting the assets and not on what the organization is going to actually use them for. I have had more than one attorney (both in-house and outside) admit to me that they don’t like the technology they’re seeking patent protection for. They don’t believe the patents are valuable and they prosecute some patent applications just to see if they can get them through the patent office.
4. If you don’t take responsibility for it, you won’t manage it well. Many small companies outsource their intellectual property needs to outside law firms and attorneys. Those needs can include decision-making. Small companies and start-ups often defer to the advice of counsel, because they lack the knowledge needed to make their own decisions.
So, what does it mean to manage an organization’s intellectual property well? Organizations manage what they value. When you manage something, you take care of that something. You treat it with respect and recognize its usefulness. You don’t ignore it or take it for granted. You do what you can to make it grow and thrive.
You need to recognize that your IP has value. IP is a valuable business asset that needs to be cared for. Proper IP management ensures its continuous, efficient capture, as well as its effective use, throughout your organization. Assets are meant to be used for the good of the company, not tracked, stockpiled, and subsequently ignored. That’s why I put together the Program that I outlined last week. If you value your IP and want to manage it, join me next week when we will start at the beginning.
Intellectual property management is not difficult. It’s just not valued.