I think all organizations have intellectual property in some way, shape, or form.  Whether their big or small, for profit or non-profit, mom-and-pop shops to giant multi-nationals, IP is everywhere.  Even restaurants have their secret sauce.

Lots of companies recognize their IP and track it.  In fact, they track the heck out of it.  If the company acknowledges its existence, then there is a database and files somewhere.  Someone has a list of serial numbers and dates.

Some actually manage it.  The management team cares about IP and its impact on the business.  They have employee education and policies directed to protecting their IP in a bigger way.  They implement IP monitoring programs to manage risk.  The company looks for ways to use it to boost their business.  They set goals and metrics to see if they’re doing a good job managing it.

A few companies really use their IP.  They actively engage in intellectual property licensing and/or IP litigation activities.  They search out and stop counterfeit goods.  They work safely with third parties on joint projects.  These companies use their IP as a true business asset.  And let me be clear.  There’s a difference between using the technology disclosed in the patent and using the patent.

Unfortunately, most companies don’t move past the tracking phase in the IP Administration process.  Most organizations identify their IP pretty well.  They spend money protecting and tracking it.  And what does all of this lead to?  In the end, the company sits on it, filling filing cabinets with folders and paper, and databases with numbers and dates.

I refer to these organizations as ‘IP Hoarders’.  They systematically rack up big legal bills accumulating lots of patents and trademarks.  Then, they stockpile it.

They just don’t know any better.  These companies set out on this path long ago.  ‘I invent therefore I patent’ is their motto.  It’s what they’ve always done.  They honestly believe they’re doing everything they can (and should) be doing to protect their intellectual assets.  I think they would be surprised if I told them that they were doing only half the job.

If your business is investing its hard earned dollars into patents and trademarks, ask yourself: what are we doing with these assets?  If your answer is ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t know’, then it’s probably time to take a hard look at why you are spending money on a business asset you don’t really use.  It might be time to review your current strategy and make some important changes.

If I compulsively spent lots of money on large amounts of stuff that I never plan to use and it clutters up my home, what would you call me?  A hoarder.  Well, what would you call a company that builds up its IP portfolio for the sake of simply having a portfolio?

You’ve got 3 guesses, and the first two don’t count!