Thursday, October 16, 2008

In the Midst of a Global Financial Meltdown, Smart Companies will Increase Strategic IP Management Efforts

By Ron Carson
Vice President of Marketing
Innovation Asset Group

In the midst of the turmoil in financial markets and what appears to be an inevitable global economic downturn, companies will face increased pressure to cut costs. This may very well lead to decreased budgets and reduced headcount in areas related to innovation and intellectual property.

However, Innovation is the basis for competition in a global knowledge-based economy and intellectual property is the vehicle through which innovation is protected and monetized. To cut costs in the areas of innovation and intellectual property would have an adverse effect on the competitiveness and profitability of companies in the future.

Now is not the time to scale back investments in innovation, intellectual property and monetization activities. By scaling back the organizational infrastructure -- the people, processes and tools engaged in the IP value chain, companies will a) negatively impact future growth, competitiveness and profitability; and b) may actually increase the cost to develop, protect and leverage IP in the future.

Now is the time to ensure focused attention in key areas of the Intellectual Property Value Chain™ to lower costs in the short term, while positioning for a stronger competitive position in the long term.

Innovation is a top priority for company executives, and well it should be. Studies have shown that more innovative companies tend to have more favorable stock price performance over time. For example, historical data show that the S&P/BusinessWeek Global Innovation Index companies outperformed S&P Global 100 Index companies by more than 7% in 2007 and have done 5% better since the middle of 2005.

Other innovation related indices, such as The Innovation Index(TM) has beaten the broader market and was up 9% in 2008 through September 19th vs. a 15% loss for the S&P 500.

I would argue that now is the time for companies to turn their attention towards closely aligning innovation with the strategic business direction of the company. Set innovation targets in key technology areas, deploy a web-based invention disclosure form for the entire employee population, implement a common invention scoring system, prioritize inventions for patenting, reward inventors for innovations deemed worthy of patent protection, and report on progress against targets.

This focused approach will help ensure that R&D expenditures are properly targeted, that the innovations are properly protected and that the company is better positioned to leverage its innovations in the future.

Portfolio Management
In regards to the importance of maintaining an intellectual property portfolio, numerous studies indicate that companies with a large number of high quality patents also benefit from enhanced market valuations. For example, the OT300 Patent Index – which tracks companies with the most “valuable” patents, based on a proprietary Ocean Tomo algorithm – has consistently outperformed the S&P500 in recent years.

Even though your company may not be a member of the OT300, now is the time to use your enterprise intellectual property asset management system to map or categorize you IP portfolio in terms of products, business units, technology areas and any other business-relevant category need. Unused assets can be allowed to expire to lower costs. Assets that have perhaps become irrelevant to your business and are still in the prosecution stage can be allowed to lapse to save even more money.

Look to your IP management solution to implement a paperless office. Efficiencies gained can be used to allocate internal resources to more strategic management issues instead of administrative ones, reduce headcount, or negotiate lower fees with your outside counsel firm. The IP Think Tank blog had some other practical ideas for your reading enjoyment.

I found an interesting post describing the opportunity to offset the effects of the financial crisis by out-licensing IP and generating new revenue streams in the form of royalty payments. "Is the financial crisis taking its toll on IP monetization?"

IP Commercialization or monetization through licensing agreements sounds like a viable way for a company to generate incremental revenue. However, studies have shown that royalty agreements tend to be mismanaged to the extent that 88% of all royalties are under collected and almost half of all royalty agreements are under reported by 25% or more. Billions of dollars are being wasted.

For companies just starting out on an IP Commercialization effort, as well for companies who have more established programs, now is the time to stop the revenue leakage associated with IP licensing programs. The current market environment is a great opportunity to implement a system to manage license agreements, dates, milestones; and of course royalty payments. If the studies mentioned above are indeed accurate, even a small licensing program that generates $100M in revenue, has the potential of recovering an additional $20M over the life of the licensing contracts.

I admit to the possibility that I am somewhat biased in my views on these topics, as my company develops software that addresses the issues and opportunities raised in this blog post. But it seems to me that today is a great time to look at and capitalize on a number of cost saving and revenue generating opportunities across the IP Value Chain.

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