In 2002, John Cronin noted that for most Fortune 500 companies, 95% do not have an IP strategy or even know what an IP strategy really is. Not much has changed over a decade later. Still only 5% of companies interviewed say that they have an IP Plan but Cronin believes they do not really have a strategy. At most they have a plan but with no tactics. Critical for success is to have an IP strategy that is critically linked to business planning. This means that an IP strategy must:
- Have clever tactics
- Have a linkage between IP strategy and the high levels of the business (Financial, Operations, HR, and R&D).
- Have a linkage to the Vision, Mission, and Goals of the organization.
- Have a linkage to, or consideration of, the market.
- Have a linkage to inventors through the Invention Strategy.
- Involve an understanding of competitor and value chain IP.
- Involve an understanding of Human Capital (potential IP).
- Involve the use of various IP vehicles (publications, trade secrets, know-how).
- Have a linkage to other business processes (six Sigma, stage gate).
- Have a linkage to, and a filter for, disclosures and maintenance fees of patents.
- Utilize visualization tools.
- Have a means to guide product clearance, patentability searches, and state-of-the-art searches.
- Have a way to guide the drafting of new patent application claims.
- Be an ongoing process of the Corporation.
- Have a means to link the IP strategy to Information Systems.
In the “IP Strategy Should Integrate Key Business Functions” figure the way in which IP strategy is currently occurring in most companies is shown on the left as a Venn diagram. The Legal and R&D organizational elements are acting separately. Aligned companies have good business, legal and marketing interaction, but they leave the inventors out of the process. In IP driven companies business, marketing, technical, legal, operations, and inventors are all integrated with overlapping responsibilities for developing a sustained advantaged position for the Corporation.
By all functions working together, and as seen in the “Areas of IP Strategy Focus” figure, an Integrated IP strategy should clearly address: (1) the space “1” between the company’s products and that of its competitors patents, (2) the gray area “2” between the company’s products and competitors patents, (3) the space “3” between the company’s patents and competitors’ products, and most importantly (4) the “white” space between the companies capability and where the market and its competitors will be in the future.