Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chief IP Counsel and CIO: New Best Friends

By Ron Carson
Vice President of Marketing
Innovation Asset Group

Lester Thurrow, author and former dean of MIT School of Management, has written that the "only remaining source of true competitive advantage is technologies that others do not have." Since intellectual property is the legal vehicle for protecting such technologies, it's clearly the key strategic asset for maintaining competitive advantage.

This is not a new concept for the typical corporate IP attorney, and even the C-suite has become aware of the topic through mainstream business publications. But it's difficult to change corporate behavior and begin to manage IP as a strategic asset. Many IP professionals have told me that cost pressures are becoming more intense, and they are being asked to do even more with even less.

Intellectual Property: It's Not Just for IP Departments Any More

But IP attorneys may have an emerging ally in the fight against corporate inertia. In recent months, I've noticed that the topic of IP's strategic importance has spread from IP-related publications, to business-related publications, and now to IT-related publications. With attention being raised in CIO circles, now is the time for the IP department to align with and gain the support of the IT department.

A recent report related to intellectual property from Gartner, Inc had the following recommendations:
  • Most IT organizations should make formalized IP management a standard operating procedure, particularly because evidence shows that recessionary economic conditions will increase the risk of legal action.
  • CIOs must play a central role in supporting the organization's IP strategy. This should be done by investing in tools to support whole-of-company IP management processes, and by making sure their own operations are not exposing the organization to legal risk.

Your New Best Friend: The CIO

If you're a corporate IP attorney or IP department head, it's time to meet with your CIO to discuss your mutual objective of capturing, protecting and leveraging your intellectual property. To get the CIOs perspective, check out the blog post over on “Why Intellectual Property Matters for CIOs.”
“To fully realize the potential of IP--and its correlation to knowledge management--CIOs and business executives need to harness the brainpower of their employees.

That's easier said than done. Individuals are naturally reluctant to share their ideas (or credit for them) with others, so they tend to horde them inside their own heads. When that happens, the company loses out on competitive advantages.

Enter CIOs. It's not like they don't have enough to worry about these days, but now they need to become true stewards of the information housed within their company--and their employees' brains. In other words, truly live up to their title of chief information officer.

CIOs have a role to play in ensuring the intellectual assets of the organization are identified, gathered, categorized, rated, ranked and properly protected."

Hmmm... where have we heard ideas like that before? Oh, yes -- in most IP publications, not to mention this blog. This post goes on to say:
Today CIOs have a new charge: to convert intellectual assets into IP so it can be converted to competitive advantage for the company.

Granted, not all information within a company is valuable or unique. So a big part of the job is to manage the entire library. But more important than that, CIOs and their teams need to install the tools [read: IP Management Software] and processes that decipher what's actually advantageous.
You could easily substitute chief IP counsels for CIO in these paragraphs. I think it's an indication that the IP department may have an emerging ally in the IT department. So go ahead, corporate IP attorneys, reach out to your CIO, buy them a coffee and put your heads together to develop a plan to ensure your company's competitive strength by implementing the necessary IP management software tools and processes.