By Robert Cantrell
Classical strategy shows that the most successful organizations in any professional discipline tend to assemble good people, ideas, and tools in that order of priority. This makes sense when you think about it given that good people tend to use good ideas and procure useful tools to support them. Look at any failed organization, and you will often find that a tool or an idea became a priority above the people so that the people served the tool or the idea and not the other way around. It’s a common theme that even shows up frequently in our popular culture. Is it not the case that the villain in many a superhero movie fell from grace when he became consumed by the dark side of his own creation? – One that was perhaps intended for good.
While bringing together good people is a central role of HR and hiring managers, an IP strategist who embraces the entire potential or his or her profession has the opportunity to play a central role in the management of their ideas. IP, after all, is an idea turned into a definable asset, and it can only produce its highest return on investment if it aligns with other ideas central to the organization. So if good people have selected durability as a selling point for their product line, the IP strategist can prioritize inventions associated with durability for comprehensive IP protection. If corporate headquarters has adopted Six Sigma as a useful ideal, the IP strategist can build an operation around similar principles and define and protect IP around ideas that deliver on the Six Sigma philosophy.
This is a much broader role in potential than would normally be ascribed to a corporate IP legal department. A corporate IP legal department necessarily focuses on securing and enforcing IP rights by which an organization can execute any associated strategy with confidence. The IP strategist needs to look broadly into the whole concept of ideas that an organization uses, up to and including the central ideas that salespeople leverage to sell products and realize IP value. The IP strategist needs to understand that, for illustration, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on R&D for a new sports cars engine, drive train, and other hi-tech components, and the hundreds of patents and licenses associated with it, may have been necessary just to be in the game. The deciding factor on the realization of value from all that work and IP may come down to a few details on the interior, like cup holders and a dashboard display protected by design patents, that align everything else with an idea of luxury and performance that the salespeople actually sell.