“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.  Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  – Sun Tzu

I love this quote.  To me, it sums up everything that is wrong with the way so many organizations handle their intellectual property today.  A lot companies have patents (an example of tactics), but no strategy.  Too many organizations (I’m looking at you, university tech transfer offices) have a strategy (e.g. licensing their IP), but bad tactics.  Under Sun Tzu’s rule, the outcome is either drudgery or defeat, and neither outcome sounds good to me.

The good news is, with a good IP management program, both strategy and tactics can work together to achieve the desired end result.  IP management occurs when an organization uses processes and systems to take charge of its patents, trademarks, copyrights, know-how, and trade secrets, allowing for their continuous and efficient capture, as well as their effective use.

As I said in my recent blog post, there are 12 elements of a comprehensive IP management program.  Those elements exist in a definite order starting with the ‘The 4 Fundamentals’.  Without these 4 basic building blocks, you won’t have a foundation to build on to achieve success in the future.

‘The Fundamentals’ govern:

  • Who is in charge of intellectual property,
  • When and how IP needs are addressed,
  • Your IP message, and
  • How much it’s all going to cost.

In a nutshell, the Fundamentals are:

1. IP Administration, Organization & Budget.  This is where you establish your organization’s rules for intellectual property.  At the beginning, you must decide what, when, how, and why you do what you do with your IP.   Some of the actions steps you must take include: drafting your IP policy, establishing procedures and forms to capture IP, identifying decision-makers, and establishing a budget.  If you implement only one of the 12 elements in the program, this is THE one.

2.  IP Reports & Communication.  What message are you sending to your employees where IP is concerned?  The organization must communicate a consistent message that sets the tone for the internal IP discussion and sets forth what it expects from its employees to ensure everyone understands their role in the process.  This includes IP news, the IP policy, basic training materials, etc.

3.  IP Audit.  You cannot manage it, if you don’t know it exists.  All intellectual property assets owned or controlled by an organization must be accounted for and catalogued in a central data base.  It’s that simple.

4.  IP Education.  Everyone in the organization should have a basic working knowledge of what intellectual property is and what the organization wants you to do with it.  If employees are unaware of their IP obligations and responsibilities, they cannot participate in the process and IP will be missed.

If you master these fundamentals, you will improve the overall understanding of intellectual property throughout your organization.  This essential understanding ensures that everyone in your organization has a basic working knowledge of IP and knows what IP means to your business.  Implementing these 4 elements ensures that your strategy and tactics align for success.