Friday, July 27, 2007

IP Culture - a Political Priority?

by Peter Ackerman
CEO and President
Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

I am frequently asked to post to our blog. I’ve liked the excuse that my reflective nature requires more time. My blog blockage is cured with this. Nothing to do with political predilections. President Bush was asked about whether over-the-air broadcasters should pay performance royalties. Turned out to be esoteric from his perspective (“I have like no earthly idea what you’re talking about”). The question was asked by Al McCree, president of Altissimo! Recordings. Just an interesting subsurface alignment between the two that McCree is in the business of recording, licensing and distributing military music. His company licenses music from all of the U.S. Armed Services and their label is found in military academies, on military bases and in war memorials across the United States. It appears that, following a tour in Vietnam in which he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, he was a constituent of Governor Bush in Texas for a time. Not that one would have expected the president to know that.

But that’s not my point. The point I want to make is that I might have preferred a response that even generically referred to the critical need to maintain a national entrepreneurial culture. I would have preferred that a question containing the key words “royalties” and “music exports” triggered the mind into gear about the competitiveness of U.S. innovation and protected creative expression. It’s what savvy political leaders do. This has nothing to do with McCree’s specific issue. And it has nothing to do with political ideology. I asked a Democratic candidate for an Oregon U.S. Senate seat about his thoughts regarding capital availability for emerging U.S. technology companies. His answer was that he felt it was a “state” issue, one for the governor to be concerned about. Great. Oregon to an extent seems to get that
as I’m sure other states do. But really it’s a national issue.

It’s simply a matter of priorities and re-jiggering the A-list of mentally-parked talking points. Strikes me that so much falls out of the subject of intellectual asset formation. This is still probably the best country for giving birth to an idea and navigating it to a point of commercialization. And ultimately, an environment that nurtures good ideas is an environment capable of liberating itself from myriad ills and dependencies. But there is much more to be done, as highlighted in a piece last year in
U.S. News & World Report.

Sure, I self-servingly want intellectual property issues to be on the front of everyone’s mind. But more broadly, I just want the economic reality and possibilities of a fully supported knowledge economy to be tightly packed in the minds of our political leaders. We’re getting there.
eBay and Alan Greenspan among others woke a few people up. But what you read and hear about the most - piracy and patent reform - are symptoms. There’s a lot to think about on the front end of the entrepreneurial value chain. Another post for another day.

It was just a question of the president by someone whose interests would be served by a good answer. Sometimes larger thoughts can be triggered by small things.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Are Chief IP Counsels really Chief IP Officers?

by Ron Carson
Regional Sales Director
Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

Joff Wild over at IAM Magazine has an interesting perspective on the need for a senior executive responsible for the entire lifecycle of IP in the enterprise. He describes the role of a Chief Intellectual Property Officer (CIPO) and why it is a necessary function.

This runs along a similar train of thought to our CFO’s post about the role of the CFO in enterprise IP portfolio management.

We are seeing an evolution – perhaps revolution. Not just in terms of the recognition of IP as the fundamentally core asset for businesses today; but also in terms of the way in which that IP is managed (I think “where” remains the same).

Initially, IP is managed out of the legal department. In a non-strategic mindset, IP management equates to docketing in some of these companies.

As companies embrace the strategic importance of IP and understand the need to move beyond simply docketing, there is an evolution of the role of the legal department. Much the way IT departments in corporate America evolved from a cost center and service provider to a strategic enabler of the business in the past couple of decades, legal departments are making a similar evolution today.

If you picture a pyramid similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and similar to the one described in “Edison in the Boardroom,” the bottom of the pyramid represents the least sophisticated IP companies, and the top of the pyramid the most sophisticated.

I have talked to many different companies in the past year: some companies are parked at the bottom of the IP management hierarchy, others companies occupy the pinnacle of the hierarchy and many other companies are spread out across all points in between.

Although I completely agree with idea of the CIPO, in practical terms, I think the Chief IP Counsel role is evolving with companies as they evolve up the IP management hierarchy. For example, companies at the bottom of the pyramid still view IP as a legal issue only. Their idea of IP management is to consolidate their portfolio with a single IP counsel firm to help manage costs. The person in charge of IP is either the General Counsel or Chief Patent Counsel.

At the pinnacle of the hierarchy, I have spoken with companies who have sophisticated tools and strategies to manage everything from innovation targets, portfolio mapping, portfolio optimization, and licensing. The IP strategy is tightly aligned to the business strategy, the costs of the portfolio are allocated along with the revenues. In these sophisticated environments, it is still the Chief IP Counsel in charge of IP. Instead of a patent attorney focused on docketing, the Chief IP Counsel in these companies has a much more strategic role in the corporation – effectively filling the role of the CIPO.

It would be great to get a discussion going on this topic. Where is your company on the IP management hierarchy? What role/position within your company maintains control over the IP portfolio and IP strategy?

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