Don’t align IP Strategy with Business Strategy

By Duncan Bucknell

Imagine having a dollar for every time you’d heard someone use the phrase ‘align IP strategy with business strategy’.

Well, it’s overused, out of date, hackneyed and trite.

If you don’t believe me, have a look at the google search results on the phrase.

The number of people supposedly advising on ‘IP Strategy’ and trotting this phrase out with nothing there to support it is astounding.

IP Strategy is much deeper than that, you have to actually think.  Use it to inform, define, leverage and improve your overall strategy.

Don’t just ‘align it’.

[Image credit: Alex Osterwalder]


  1. “Aligning” may not be the complete story, Duncan, but woe to the IP strategist who tries to assemble an IP strategy independent of or NOT aligned with the business strategy. Alignment is clearly the necessary starting point.

  2. Thanks Tom, that's fantastic. Totally agree that IP & Bus. need to be aligned. But that's not all, as you say.

  3. Ahmed Abbas says:

    I like this. I think the relationship between Biz Strategy and IP Strategy is like the relationship of Business Intelligence to Business Strategy; IP Strategy inputs into Business Strategy as opposed to Business Strategy driving the IP Strategy.

  4. Thanks Ahmed – I agree, I think they end up evolving together eventually.

  5. I think IP strategy should be used to support a business strategy, it should not be just a piece of paper laying about. The thing is you have to convince the client to take the time and actually consider it as more than a piece of strategy. Duncan's 4 step strategy on the matter seems right on spot.

  6. George Paul says:

    Hi Duncan,I like the site. I think that Ahmed is right – in fact without an IP Strategy you don't have a Busines StrategyGeorge Paul

  7. Thanks so much George. Do you think that applies in all businesses? Sometimes the best approach to IP is just to ignore it.

  8. Thanks so much George. Do you think that applies in all businesses? Sometimes the best approach to IP is just to ignore it.

  9. Very good point Duncan. Many so called IP consultants push the IP Strategy mantra and completely miss the point. What often happens is that the business gets a one off “alignment” and then the “aligned” strategy withers and dies and the business sees no sustainable value. Most of the headline IP strategies are simply banal textbook rubbish.IP is an embedded activity just like finance, HR, procurement, marketing, research etc….just an element of the business strategy. Nothing special.

  10. Thanks Nick – 'nothing special' – I really like that point. I 've posted about this before –

  11. I agree that IP strategy is just a part of the business strategy…but how do you get the business leaders realise that IP is/should be a part of their overall strategy?

  12. Thanks Charles – here are some thoughts:(1) understand what their goals are (what is going to impress them)(2) figure out how you can use IP to make a significant impact on those(3) go ahead and impress them(4) do it in small bites, without fanfare – just prove it one small step at a time

  13. George Paul says:

    Hi Duncan. Addressing Charles' and Nick's points, it is important to encourage business owners to think carefully about how they preserve and enhance the cash flows which drive the value of the business. I once valued a business for the recent purchasers entirely on the cash flows from a set of patents (which turned out to be nearly 40% more than they paid, illustrating the point that the sellers left something on the table!)However, this is not always the case, and one needs to think carefully about whether the cash flows do depend on any form of IP in order to provide a competitive advantage. If not, then IP is nothing special, just another business function to support potential business development. If so, then the function needs to be massaged to deliver value!

  14. Nick White says:

    Thanks for the link Duncan. I agree! Although I offer a CIPO service! Why? Because of ignorance in the market.The sad fact is that whilst many CEOs (through their MBA training) get the value of addressing finance, HR, procurement, logistics issues….etc etc, you name it….they don't get the value of considering IP. The IP community muddies this by making it a “special” issue.I think your approach is a good one for service provider trying to educate. Demonstrate relevance first . The relevance of considering IP as an issue within your business. Build on that.Nick WhiteTangible IP

  15. Naim Khan says:

    If you just say don’t align this would not have favourable effect on the listener. Need to show why IP strategy is much deeper that a business strategy by identifying from where the IP strength is emanating. I have a view and am developing it further to show how invention capture, invention development, global market information and the technological & IP landscapes are necessarily interlinked. IP is not simply an asset class. That would be equal to practising Newton’s Physics in the post Einstein era. IP in the generalized sense is the deepest embedded process within a company that feeds and is fed by all departments inclusive of R&D.

    • Thanks Naim – doesn’t it depend on the industry and business model, though?

      • Industry type will have an influence for sure. But in general Industries where IP assets as sought after the impact would not vary a lot.

        With the enormous amount of patents being filed the world over, sooner or later businesses without IP assets would be forced to form a strategy that covers IP bases. That business are good or bad with IP shows that there is a weaker link between business plan and IP Strategy. IP assets are different from IP processes. An IP Strategy comprises of assets and processes. A business decision can be made based on available traditional IP assets. A business decision can also be made from the insights gained from a company’s IP processes. IP processes refer to invention capture and development, your technology landscapes studies, your IP landscape output, your R&D outlooks for existing and future markets, global market analysis and product development and the intersecting links between these efforts. If you were to integrate this knowledge then the deliverable insights are far richer than the traditional IP assets. This is not to say that the IP assets are of low value. In fact over time IP assets would cover the insights of the IP processes and become stronger. One might say that all big companies do this. I would disagree. An example;an IP focused company like Microsoft got it all wrong in terms of the internet. HP is better. Their product integration is more better. So far the only progress we have made in IP is integrating licensing with IP. I say with the incredible amount of effort we put in IP to produce an IP asset, the efficiency factor in terms of total output delivered is too low. Using the same effort we can deliver an incredible amount more.

  16. Kashyaparun says:

    It may sound unusual. But to ensure that you succeed in your business, your business strategy should be aligned with your IP strategy. If you ever try to align your IP strategy with your business strategy, you are likely to compromise on IP issues. Practising IP is likely to give much greater returns.

    • Thanks very much and great comment. I think this is right in many circumstances. Perhaps one should start at least with the premise that they should inform each other? Some businesses will require one to take precedence. Also I think we need to be careful not to let IP get ahead of itself – which seems to happen from time to time in the blogosphere…

      • Kashyaparun says:

        In fact, practising IP is akin to speaking truth. I consider that the first step towards practising IP is to start respecting your own IP which evolves into respecting others’ IP. Simple rule is to neither infringe others’ IP rights nor to permit others infringe your own IP rights. If one starts practising this rule, business will start attaining greater heights. Business should therefore look towards IP as a guiding tool.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stan Abrams. Stan Abrams said: Don’t align IP Strategy with Business Strategy […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by card4net. card4net said: RT @IPThinkTank: RE: @ipthinktank Thanks Charles – here are some thoughts: (1) understand what their goals are (what is going to impres… […]

  3. […] 5.  Don’t align IP Strategy with Business Strategy […]

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