At many companies, intellectual property has become an area of focus. Research shows that top-management involvement in IP strategy is associated with better IP performance.
How are companies approaching intellectual property strategy, and what are successful strategies for managing IP? To explore such questions, the author and his research team conducted a detailed survey of senior IP executives at 34 companies. The survey findings indicate that IP has become an area of focus for the executive committee and the board at many companies. What’s more, the study found that top executives’ involvement in IP strategy was correlated with better IP performance.
Analysis of the survey data suggests another intriguing point: Some companies are now using an approach to IP strategy that the author calls “full-fledged IP protection.” This “full-fledged IP protection” strategy includes seeking technical and nontechnical IP protection for even minor inventions, in an attempt to “pack” technology spaces with IP claims. This practice differs from a classic IP strategy of using IP to support core research and development. At least in some industries, this change in IP use may, the author suggests, be causing the nature of IP competition to shift from the world of “real” products to that of “potential” products.
The study also found that, in the companies surveyed, IP-related tasks often entail cooperation among staff from different functional areas within a company, such as product designers and patent and trademark attorneys. Having clear-cut rules about IP at the functional level was associated with better IP performance in the companies surveyed, as was having corporate management devote time to listening to the company’s most senior IP officers. On the other hand, failure to sell or license out IP when circumstances facilitated or necessitated such a trade was associated with significantly lower IP performance.
In addition to the survey data, the author conducted interviews with senior executives from two of the participating companies: Lars Rebien Sorensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk A/S, a healthcare company with a specialty in diabetes care; and Dr. Gottlieb Keller, a member of the corporate executive committee of the healthcare company F. Hoffmann- La Roche Ltd. In these interviews, Sorensen and Keller discussed the role of corporate leaders in IP strategy at their respective companies.