IP Philosophy for corporate, IP Strategy for Business Units

By Duncan Bucknell

Can you really have a cohesive IP Strategy at the corporate level?

I don’t think so.

Unless of course they are one and the same thing.  (Small companies with effectively one business unit obviously have the same IP Strategy for both.)

Otherwise, each business unit needs its own defined IP Strategy – focused on the strategy and its execution required to meet its specific goals.  As soon as you start building a corporate IP Strategy over the top, you pretty quickly end up with vague platitudes about maximising return from IP, optimising freedom to operate and so on.

What is useful at the corporate level, is to clearly set out the company’s approach and philosophy where possible.  So for example, anything that is completely taboo (some companies will never litigate), can be spelt out here.  Similarly, anything that must always be kept in mind (eg. the IP corollaries of the company’s guiding principles) can also be recorded here.

The IP Philosophy document then serves as a guide to business units along with their overall objectives and business strategy when setting their individual IP strategies.

What have you found that works on this front?

[image credit: h.koppdelaney]


  1. I would add the following. The C-suite clearly sets the direction for the overall organization and certain guiding operational principles, and business units must develop and execute IP strategies relevant to their particular business focus. That’s a given.

    However, an enlightened C-suite will also set targets for all their business units, including business/financial targets, which have IP components. These can manifest themselves in a number of ways. Here are a few examples: 1) charge each business unit with generating $XXX through outlicensing/partnering programs 2) build a new technology platform suite (including developing/acquiring core IP and technology) to drive the future growth of the business units  3) outsource X% of each business unit manufacture (with defined licensing terms) over the next Y years 4) build a mature products division to manage products across all business units going/gone “off patent”.  

  2. There is often an unknown factor that needs to be incorporated in most IP Strategies. That factor is the outcome of creativity/innovation component of your own organization as well of your competitors. How the management reacts to new innovation of its competitors and forces the product management and R&D to react in a certain way, may not be ideal. Is it possible to adapt better corporate practices to such not so infrequent contingencies? Also, how to manage the creativity of your own company is a big challenge for Management. Creativity in organizations is largely a momentum
    based quality and is often “ON” when most other product management is”OFF”.

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