Monday, 13 March 2017

Grasping Intangibles: now you can enjoy the show

All assets, tangible or not,
need tangible support if they're
to play their role in business
A few weeks ago Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher penned some comments on the risk of failing to recognise the importance and value of rights in intangible assets, and in particular intellectual property rights ["Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers", here].  Nigel's thoughts on the topic soon became the subject of a webinar, which took place last week.  The official description of the webinar runs like this:
Drawing on research from our recent IP Strategy Survey, Aistemos CEO, Nigel Swycher, along with guest speakers Scott Bell, Head of UK Investment Banking at Deutsche Bank, and David Kappos, Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore spoke in our most recent IP strategy webinar: ‘Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers’. The panel explored the following key issues: 
  • Steps towards greater corporate transparency of intangible assets;
  • Approaches taken by major corporates to improve management of IP;
  • Accessing the right data at the right time -– the growth in IP business intelligence;
  • Investor attitudes to IP value in public and private companies.
If you weren't able to participate in the webinar and forgot to sign up to receive the recording, never mind -- you can still enjoy it by clicking here,  It runs for fractionally over 27 minutes and the recording includes all the visuals.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Making a mint? Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and patent ownership

'Bitecoin'? Unlikely to catch on
as a cryptocurrency ...
The ever-restless world of money seems set for further changes that lie outside the comprehension of most people. Most of these changes relate to the increased use, if not the greater respectability, of cryptocurrencies, of which the most prominent is Bitcoin [for more on Bitcoin click here; for our recent blogpost on patents based on the blockchain principle on which Bitcoin is based, click here]. 

This blogpost, with the assistance of Cipher, takes a quick look at the patent ownership position regarding cryptocurrencies. This is what we found:




The treemap shown above depicts the lie of the land in terms of patents for bitcoin/cryptocurrency technology.  The size of each rectangle indicates the current distribution of patent families, while the colour -- ranging from red to green -- shows the change in the proportion of patent families owned over the period 2013 to 2017 (Red indicates loss, green shows gain). From this treemap it can be seen that 
  • a large portion of the patent families is in the hands of private owners; 
  • there is a notable decline in the notional “market share” of private owners, a decline which shows two things: (i) private owners had the filed first (first movers); (ii) companies are gaining in terms of portfolio size in this technology.
Territorial coverage (both with and without private owners)
  • The figure showing territorial coverage is remarkable, in that it shows how far behind the main investors are the Europeans. In short
  • When private owners are excluded, the United States is way ahead of the rest of the world, with the Asia-Pacific trailing behind at a respectable distance
  • Once private owners are included the position is reversed, with around roughly 60% of coverage in the Asia-Pacific and only around 40% in the United States.  
  • Figures for Europe are so insignificant that they do not register at all on the figure. Europe in general is quite conservative in terms of monetary policy, and anything to do with fiscal policy and monetary transactions is heavily regulated. That does not make Europe immune to developments elsewhere in the global economy, but does suggest that the Old World will be made to follow the New World, rather than to lead it.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Something to trumpet about: good news if you're heading for the IP Strategy Forum

Free registration for in-house IP
folk: something
to trumpet about
Readers of this weblog will by now be well aware that Managing Intellectual Property journal (MIP) has launched its inaugural IP Strategy Forum, to be held in the historical and quite lovely surroundings of London's County Hall, on 26 April 2017.  We have also trumpeted the happy fact that the World Intellectual Property Organization -- the UN agency responsible for promoting IP globally and administering its international filing systems -- has designated precisely that day as World Intellectual Property Day 2017 [the WIPO World IP Day website, here, has some background information about this year's event, which is on the theme of "Innovation -- Improving Lives"].


Today's good news is that MIP has kindly agreed to register IP and R&D professionals within companies for free.


County Hall
This year's IP Strategy Forum is being held in conjunction with Aistemos.  Apart from the benefits of participating in the Forum itself, there's an additional bonus in that the results of last year's Aistemos IP Strategy in the Boardroom survey will be released in the form of the Aistemos IP Strategy Report. Why not join us and MIP on 26 April? We can celebrate the day together and spend a bit of time reflecting thoughtfully on the potential of the IP system to save lives and to enhance their quality, as well delivering benefits to those who create, develop and market them? We can tweet our ideas and comments using the pre-designated hashtag #worldipday.

A strong panel of speakers and participants will be on hand, so you can test out your own views of IP strategy against people who have dedicated their professional lives to developing, shaping and modifying strategies of their own in an ever-changing world in which last year's IP best practice can so easily end up being shunted into next year's dead-end. 

Qualcomm, BAE, Philips, IBM, Nissan and Deutsche Bank are among the leading IP-sensitive businesses whose experiences and ideas will be up for discussion.  Do attend and join them in discussion if you can!

Further details of this programme can be obtained by clicking here.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

February's Aistemos blogposts: a handy summary

Each month we list and summarise the previous month's blogposts for readers  who have been away or who were simply too busy to follow them in real time.  This blog lists our main posts for the recently-passed month of February.

Every one of the blogposts listed below comes with a moderated comment facility, so please feel welcome to respond to anything you read, whether you disagree with it, wish to amplify or clarify its points, or merely provide further links to relevant material.

To check each post out, just click the title:

Monday, 27 February 2017

Seize the moment, grasp those intangibles: this webinar discusses how

Here's a reminder that Aistemos is running a webinar with the theme of "Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers". It's scheduled for Wednesday 8 March, starting at 1500 pm GMT. Not to be missed!

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Friday, 24 February 2017

Navigating the intangible landscape: in data we trust

Another opinion piece in our series of features built upon the survey conducted last year by Aistemos into IP strategy and attitudes found within the boardroom.

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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Celebrate World IP Day with us at the IP Strategy Forum

We team up with Managing Intellectual Property journal, which launches its inaugural IP Strategy Forum this spring, in the historical and quite lovely surroundings of London's County Hall, on 26 April 2017.  This blogpost explains what it's all about.

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The US Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center has released its International IP Index for 2017. We take a look and ask whether such exercises are of any use and, if so, to whom.
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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

How intellectual property became the strategist's darling

Here's another challenging piece in our series of features built upon the survey conducted last year by Aistemos into IP strategy and attitudes found within the boardroom. 

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Monday, 20 February 2017

"The Benefits of Transparency in Patent Ownership" now accessible online

"Transparent patent records: it's time to toast an ORoPO webinar" promoted a CPA Global webinar on the need for more accurate and transparent patent ownership records, and on the role that can be played by the non-profit ORoPO -- the Open Register of Patent Ownership -- in achieving this end. Here we provide a link to the full recording.

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Blockchain patents: where is control of the new technology heading?

It's nearly a year since our blog team asked what blockchain actually was, and offered a helpful explanation. This post follows on by examining, with the aid of Cipher, the lie of the land so far as blockchain patents are concerned.
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Friday, 17 February 2017

The currency of ideas: IP can make or break a business

Another in the popular series of blogposts that originate from the IP in the Boardroom survey conducted by Aistemos last year.

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

IP planning: a playbook for entrepreneurs

The Entrepreneur's IP Planning Playbook, subtitled "A Strategy Guide To Help Solopreneurs, Startup Founders, And Entrepreneurs Harness Their Intellectual Capital", is a short (81 page) and highly focused little book, the purpose of which is clearly flagged in its title. The author is Robert Klinck. This blogpost takes a look at it.
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Friday, 10 February 2017

Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers

Last year Aistemos ran its IP Strategy in the Board Room project, which sought to gauge current levels of awareness of significant intellectual property issues and to raise the level of awareness among the top echelons of IP-sensitive businesses. This blogpost comments on the consequences of a lack of awareness.

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

CourtListener: what can it offer?

Aistemos reviews a service for tracking US litigation, including intellectual property disputes.

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Monday, 6 February 2017

Examining the Rise and Rise of the Intangible Asset: loud and clear!

We provide a link to the recording of Aistemos's most heavily-followed webinar ever, "Examining the Rise and Rise of the Intangible Asset".

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Oiling the machinery of fracking technology: we see where the patents lie

A recent study on avoidable oil spillages caused by fracking in the United States was the trigger for this blogpost, compiled with the assistance of Cipher, on the state of the fracking industry in terms of patent ownership and control.

The first thing we did was to look at fracking patents in terms of time.  The table below offers a time-chart from the year 2000.  

Active Fracking Patent Families over time

• Fracking is not actually a brand-new concept.  The first experiment on hydraulic fracturing was carried out as long ago as July 1947 in Hugoton, Kansas by Stanolind Oil & Gas company, according to this article in the Michigan Telecommunicaions and Technology Law Review;
• The first fracking patent was filed in 1948 by Stanolind which, around the same time, granted Halliburton a licence. Halliburton is today the biggest fracking player in terms of patents, as can be seen from the activity chart for the five biggest fracking actors (in terms of patents), below;
• There has been a steady growth of patents for fracking since the turn of the century.

Let us now take a look at the historical filing activity for the five biggest actors of 2017.

Historical filing activity for the 5 biggest actors of 2017


• Halliburton and Schlumberger have led the field since the early years of the ’00s
• The Chinese actors have been picking up on the leaders since the late ’00s
• This chart highlights interesting areas for further analysis and invites the question: is the increased competition from Chinese actors itself a reason behind the increased patent activity from Halliburton?

Now let's look at the biggest fracking companies. In the chart below, the size of the box represents the number of fracking patents owned by the company in relation to the whole technology field in 2017, while the colour of the box represents the positive or negative change in the proportion of patents held between 2012-2017

The biggest fracking companies

• As can be seen, this field is almost exclusively populated by energy giants;
• The winners in terms of share gains are clearly Chinese companies. In contrast, the actors from US and EMEA appear to be losing ground.

Taking a nationalistic view, we now consider control of fracking technology on a country-by-country basis. The chart below shows an overview of the geographical distribution of granted fracking patent families.
Fracking technology by country

• It can be seen that the United States and China are again dominant. 
Russia, not usually among the leaders in patent-owning charts, is strongly represented here, with the United Kingdom heading the rest of the European contingent.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Seize the moment, grasp those intangibles: this webinar discusses how

It has all been said before, but the message
must still 
be internalised and applied ...
Here's a reminder that Aistemos is running a webinar with the theme of "Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers". It's scheduled for Wednesday 8 March, starting at 1500 pm GMT. The substance of this webinar can be gleaned by reading a short, punchy piece by Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher that you can read here. The topic is an important one: intangible rights don't last forever and are constantly challenged by third party activity and the passage of time. It's not enough to take action to marshal one's intangible resources. They must be assessed, appreciated and dealt with in good time -- and this is less likely to happen if intangibles are not accorded as key assets.

This webinar, which draws on research from the recent IP Strategy Survey, features Nigel Swycher with admirable support from guest speakers Scott Bell, Head of UK Investment Banking at Deutsche Bank, and David Kappos, Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. This team will explore the following key issues:
* Steps toward greater corporate transparency of intangible assets;
* Approaches taken by major corporates to improve management of IP;
* Accessing the right data at the right time – the growth in IP business intelligence;
* Investor attitudes to IP value in public and private companies
Over the course of 30 highly-focused minutes registrants will hear how IP strategy is fast becoming an integrated part of mainstream business strategy -- and why this can’t happen soon enough.

Full details of the programme and how to register for it can be found by clicking here.

If you can’t make it for the webinar, register anyway and we’ll send you a recording.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Navigating the intangible landscape: in data we trust

Here's the very latest in our series of features built upon the survey conducted last year by Aistemos into IP strategy and attitudes found within the boardroom.
Navigating the intangible landscape: in data we trust 
The big data revolution has made its mark on many industries from agriculture to e-commerce. Information about almost anything is available at the touch of a smartphone screen, and data providers such as Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg have built vast businesses peddling instant facts and figures. Yet the intellectual property (IP) sector has remained stubbornly resistant to change.

This is due to one chief culprit: systemic data blindness across the IP industry. Information about different kinds of IP -- even patents and trade marks, which are ostensibly in the public eye -- is often difficult to access, or worse, can be incomplete or even inaccurate.

The perils of data blindness

Business leaders would never be content to accept inaccurate information about revenue and profit, or settle for half a competitor analysis, yet they have been forced to make do with half the story when it comes to IP. In a recent report, financial services giant EY claimed that big data analytics was one of the most disruptive forces to impact deal-making this year, but the forecast made no mention of IP as a sector facing change. Yet change it must. 

Sir Francis knew that good data
helps bring home the bacon ...
Sir Francis Bacon once said, "Ipsa scientia potestas est," knowledge is power, and this has never been more true than it is today. IP data is increasingly becoming a crucial component of corporate decision-making. Information about patents, trade marks, licensing revenue and other considerations can make or break deals and decide whether a new product is to be developed or a new service to be introduced. If up-to-date and correct IP data is not available, these strategic decisions are much harder to make. For example, even in the US Patent and Trademark Office data, the name ‘International Business Machines’ is spelled more than 800 different ways, which makes the patent database almost impossible to search effectively.

“Outside the major patent offices, there can be cases where filings are in a poor state, lost, or have other problems,” says Justin Watts, IP partner at global law firm Freshfields. “It’s hard to get one’s hands on the data, so you have to work with that uncertainty. That means lots of warranty clauses in deals and an assumption that there will be a good degree of post-closing work so that IP rights go in the right places.” This situation is far from ideal, he adds. “But we have to do deals in the context of the current system.”

The state of play

Aistemos’ recent survey of 80 high-level executives from some of the world’s most innovative companies, including BAE Systems, Siemens and Bayer, demonstrated a struggle to get hold of the right IP information within one’s own organisation, let alone access data regarding IP rights in a client or competitor corporation.

When asked, “Do you have access to the information you need relating to your organisation's IP?” the majority of respondents said they could “always” review data about registered IP, but the tally dropped significantly for IP licences and IP disputes, falling even further for IP valuation.

It is professional services and accountancy firms that are finding it toughest to get the information they need to advise adequately on deals. While registered IP, such as patents, were accessible most of the time for these respondents, data on licensing, disputes and valuation were only available “sometimes” for the majority.

The research shows that the advisory community knows that their clients have data, and they want to use that data to give better quality counsel, but they are being stymied by the current system. If this is the state of play within some of the world’s innovation giants, it suggests that data deprivation must be widespread in the mainstream.

Drowning in data

Last year, the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 60pc of executives were already using big data to generate more revenue within their organisations, while 83pc claimed that it was making their existing range of products or services more profitable. As companies produce more and more data, the insights derived from this information have the potential to be even more disruptive. In the world of IP, data is becoming more readily available, not only because of tools such as Cipher, but because of changes to how data is catalogued and displayed. The European Patent Office, for example, has opened up access to more than 90m patents through its free tool, Espacenet. Google has also moved into this space, providing indexed and searchable IP rights through Google Patents. But it’s almost impossible for a human being to analyse hundreds of thousands of relevant patents; that’s where machines come in.

“There is large amounts of patent and IP related data available,” says Michael Durst, chief executive and founder of Itonics, an analytics and software firm supporting R&D. “This means more data that has to be researched and analysed and evaluated. It’s coming from all over the world now, especially China and the US. But the big data revolution has not really arrived; it’s still in the making.” Yet many of the systems devised to help companies access and manage IP data have not kept pace with the clients they serve. “A lot of the existing software looks like it’s from the eighties,” Durst says. “Companies are still turning to external resource, such as specialist law firms, to fill the gaps. Companies like Aistemos are showing that it’s possible to cherry pick the relevant data and analyse huge pools of data, but it is early days.”

As the available data pool swells and machine learning becomes more sophisticated, it will become increasingly possible to crunch information in a way that is useful and effective. “There’s no doubt that the direction of travel is consistently towards more complete datasets and better access to data,” says Freshfields’ Watts. “But there’s still a long way to go.”

An incomplete picture: better than no picture at all

Customers shopping with the e-commerce giant Amazon have become accustomed to the use of big data to prompt suggestions regarding new purchases. Sometimes, the algorithm gets it right; other times the products listed miss the mark. Consumers and businesses alike accept that big data cannot always give a precise answer -- but that it may provide a helpful nudge in the right direction. This is true of IP data as well as internet shopping.

“You know you’re looking at an incomplete picture, but tools like Cipher give you enough information to ask the right questions,” says Watts. “Cipher’s reports were very useful in a recent transaction. I was able to rapidly get to grips with a company’s IP structure and identify two-dozen key questions about how the company operated its IP and the vulnerabilities that needed to be addressed. That ability to ask sensible questions was very important indeed. The alternative is to do nothing, which is worse. It is possible, given unlimited time and an unlimited budget, to dig out most of the IP cuinformation that is pertinent to deals, he adds, but that is rarely an option. “We work on very short timescales in M&A and clients are very cost sensitive.”

“Results aren’t always clear when reviewing available data,” admits Durst. “You must ask yourself if this really provides a clear view, or are we just looking at a specific segment? Can we compare this data to other data sets? But it’s better to look at incomplete data than look at nothing at all. Even a data set that is only 80pc complete gives you a solid idea of what’s going on in the market.”

Big corporations in established industries often know what their large rivals are working on but struggle to keep up with innovations at smaller firms or start-ups, which may be moving in new and unforeseen directions.

Both Watts and Durst see tools such as Cipher as being a tool for innovation more than a weapon for litigation. “Innovation isn’t about just having an idea and creating a product, it’s about finding where the opportunity lies,” Durst explains. “If you can see patents were filed in last three years in the markets you’re playing in, or are looking to move into, you can decide what to focus on.”

Working towards a more informed future

In recent years, new online databases have been launched, attempting to provide accessible resources for those outside the IP bubble. Aistemos’ own tool, Cipher, does exactly that: aggregate, analyse and, importantly, visualise IP data to support strategic decision-making.

IP experts all seem convinced that within the next decade, big data and the move towards further transparency in the IP sector will make it much easier for companies to find opportunities, innovate, and protect their know-how.

Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher predicts the future in this way: 
“In a world where innovation is the life and soul of major companies, it is essential that there are reliable ways to measure and compare performance. There is no shortage of data, and advances in AI and machine learning now make analysis available to everyone. In 5 years, we will be faintly amused that it took so long to bring transparency and understanding to the world of IP.”
Trust will be more and more crucial as time goes on. It will not be enough to access the right IP information, but rather it must come from a trusted provider who can break down and analyse these vast swathes of facts and figures and present them in a format that is digestible by everyone at all levels, and not just by the IP experts.
Earlier posts in this series:




Thursday, 23 February 2017

Celebrate World IP Day with us at the IP Strategy Forum

Maybe ...
In an earlier blogpost we mentioned that the respected Managing Intellectual Property journal was launching its inaugural IP Strategy Forum this spring, in the historical and quite lovely surroundings of London's County Hall, on 26 April 2017.  It has since come to our notice that the World Intellectual Property Organization -- the UN agency responsible for promoting IP globally and administering its international filing systems -- is celebrating World Intellectual Property Day on exactly that date. The WIPO World IP Day website, here, has some background information about this year's event, which is on the theme of "Innovation -- Improving Lives".


Why not join us at the IP Strategy Forum on that date, so that we can celebrate the day together and spend a bit of time reflecting thoughtfully on the potential of the IP system to save lives and to enhance their quality, as well delivering benefits to those who create, develop and market them? We can tweet our ideas and comments using the pre-designated hashtag #worldipday.

For the record, the IP Strategy Forum is being held in conjunction with Aistemos.  Apart from the benefits of participating in the Forum itself, there's an additional bonus in that the results of last year's Aistemos IP Strategy in the Boardroom survey will be released in the form of the Aistemos IP Strategy Report. 

A strong panel of speakers and participants will be on hand, so you can test out your own views of IP strategy against people who have dedicated their professional lives to developing, shaping and modifying strategies of their own in an ever-changing world in which last year's IP best practice can so easily end up being shunted into next year's dead-end. 

Qualcomm, BAE, Philips, IBM, Nissan and Deutsche Bank are among the leading IP-sensitive businesses whose experiences and ideas will be up for discussion.  Do attend and join them in discussion if you can!

Further details of this programme can be obtained by clicking here.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The International IP Index 2017

The US Chamber of Commerce (USCC) Global Intellectual Property Center released earlier this month its International IP Index for 2017. The function of the Index is clear. As it states:
Not only does it assess the state of the international IP environment [an exercise in which it is by no means alone: readers may wish to compare this Index with the 5th Taylor Wessing Global Intellectual Property Index, here], it also provides a clear roadmap for any economy that wishes to be competitive in the 21st century knowledge-based global economy. Large, small, developing, or developed-economies from across the world can use the insights about their own national IP environments as well as that of their neighbors and international competitors [45 countries are reviewed here, adding up to around 90% of world GDP, as against 43 jurisdictions in the Taylor Wessing Index] to improve their own performance and better compete at the highest levels for global investment, talent, and growth.
Does this exercise have any validity?  On one level it is certainly interesting and may assist an investor, for example, which has funds that might be invested in one of two innovative IP-based projects, where one is hosted in fertile soil for patent protection and exploitation while the other is not.  It may also be useful as a goad with which to prod governments in countries where IP protection is low and its administrative infrastructure is poor. However, it is hard to imagine jurisdictions such as Venezuela or Pakistan, which have many problems of a more pressing nature to address, caving in to demands for IP made by lobbyists waving copies of the USCC Index at them. 

The Taylor Wessing Index, in contrast, would appear to be aimed mainly at prospective litigants or licensees who want to know what they might experience on the battleground of a national marketplace, as well as at their respective legal representatives.

Naturally, an index is determined the criteria by which it is compiled will allow it to be, which is why there is a good deal of discrepancy between those of the USCC and Taylor Wessing.  The USCC table is headed by the United States, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany. Taylor Wessing has the Netherlands out ahead, trailed by Germany and the United Kingdom but with the United States plummeting to the lower reaches of its table.

From the point of view of IP analytics, indexes of this nature are always enjoyable to read and may provide both background context and relevant perspectives that enable market- or product-specific data to be better appreciated.  They cannot however serve as not a substitute for drilling down into the data bedrock and establishing who owns what, where, for how long and against whom.

You can read the Executive Summary of the USCC Index here and the full Index (148 pages) here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

How intellectual property became the strategist's darling

Strategists are finally
learning to love IP
Here's another in our series of features built upon the survey conducted last year by Aistemos into IP strategy and attitudes found within the boardroom.
How intellectual property became the strategist's darling

A decade ago, the majority of boards dismissed intellectual property (IP) as a cost centre. When it came to business strategy, IP wasn’t even on their radar. Today, things are changing, albeit slowly. Patents and trade marks, among other intangible assets, cost significant sums to acquire, yet their economic benefit is frequently ill-defined. Rather than view IP as a valuable asset, boards see it as a necessary evil, best left to legal departments or, at a push, the R&D or marketing team.

This has long been a worrying disconnect. Boards understand the need to protect competitive advantage, yet often fail to understand that very advantage is dependent on the existence and strength of the company’s IP. If boards do not make IP management and performance a priority, how can they know they are making the most of their innovations? That risk and value are being properly managed?

There are of course exceptions to the rule. Pharma, biotech, high tech and media (audio and visual) companies that rely heavily on IP for their livelihoods have typically been proactive in their management of intangibles such as patents, copyright and trade marks.

The wider business ecosystem is now playing catch up. New research by Aistemos, which surveyed a wide range of business leaders including BAE Systems, Siemens and Bayer, and founders of fast-growth start-ups, has unearthed some interesting shifts in attitude towards IP.

It found that, while approximately 30pc still view intellectual property as a cost centre, and almost the same number (28pc) see it as a risk, 7.7pc regarded IP to be a value driver. This figure remains disproportionately low, which proves there is still a long way to go. Only a quarter of companies have incorporated IP into their wider business strategy, the research revealed.

Why have boards neglected IP?

Intellectual property has yet to find its true place in the boardroom -- but where does the blame lie? According to Anders Arvidsson, founder of the intellectual property consulting firm Parallel North:
“There are a lot of boards not familiar with IP. They don’t know what to do with patents, or understand the risks. It is perhaps not their job; you can always blame the board of directors but it is also the responsibility of the rest of the managers to educate the board.”
The onus, therefore, lies on the Chief Executive to communicate the importance of IP to the board of directors, and ensure that stakeholders are aware of its relevance.

IP has long been a complex area, full of arcane rules. Many business leaders, when asked to detail the extent of the IP owned and managed by their company, have struggled to give a comprehensive overview.

Jennifer Wuamett, Deputy General Counsel for IP and Litigation at NXP Semiconductors, added her voice to the report:
“I think most business leaders know instinctively that there are many important reasons to invest in IP protection, but monetary return on the investment in terms of revenue generation often tends to be a focal point as other benefits are more difficult to measure and quantify."
The drivers of change

There have been several developments in recent years that have spurred boards to take more notice of IP. One of the most powerful has been the marked increase in litigation activity. This meant that boards have had to learn the hard way that failing to manage IP risk could leave their company exposed to expensive and distracting infringement actions.

According to patent risk solutions provider RPX, the number of patent litigation cases rose significantly last year in the US, rising by 28pc on 2014 levels. The emergence of patent trolls - companies that attempt to enforce patent rights for pure economic advantage (they typically have no other business as such) - have significantly contributed to this upward trend.

Litigation is not the only growth area; licensing is also increasingly seen as a smart way of releasing value from IP. And as businesses across the globe begin to generate serious revenues from so-called monetisation activities, IP rises inexorably up the corporate agenda.

The start, in 2008, of the longest recession of living memory prompted many boards to change their approach, claims Michael Lin, partner at global IP firm Marks & Clerk: 
“Because the economy isn’t doing as well as before, boards are looking at risk differently and are asking more questions and becoming more cautious.”
The world is currently in the midst of a new industrial revolution: an age of technology. Increased innovation means more IP. And IP can no longer be seen as a standalone asset: it touches every aspect of corporate value. As more sectors become impacted by technology, the challenge will be for the value of IP to be understood by management and the board.

Dr Bobby Mukherjee, Chief Counsel for Group Intellectual Property for multinational defence, security and aerospace firm, BAE Systems, told Aistemos researchers:
“There has been a significant change over the last 10 years. With over 50pc of corporate value being intangibles, it is now increasingly understood as a main board issue.”
Not long ago, bust-ups between boards and investors over patent monetisation would have been unthinkable - now, insiders claim they are happening more and more frequently. Recent years have also seen a rise in activist hedge funds attempting to invalidate patents to devalue stock in order to take over whole companies. This is how fundamental IP has become: it has the potential to make or break a company.

Legislative changes are also affecting the wider IP landscape. Talk of a “post-Alice” environment (referring to a recent US Supreme Court decision) has resulted in much tighter standards over the kinds of software and business method patents that courts will enforce. Seismic shifts such as this are receiving widespread industry attention - and well beyond the specialist confines of IP attorneys.

Globalisation continues apace and more companies are operating across borders. According to Janhavi Dadarkar, training course leader for “Role of the Director and the Board” at the Institute of Directors (IoD), this has prompted business leaders to look more seriously at their IP:
“Companies looking to move into new countries acknowledge they need to manage their IP better. When crossing borders, even boards recognise that IP must be a big part of business strategy. They talk more about management and commercialisation but also remain focused on mitigating the risk of IP value loss.”
The data revolution is also making it much easier for business leaders to understand what IP is held -not just by their own organisations but also by peers and rivals. Having access to trusted sources of IP data will make it easier to incorporate IP into business strategy.

As Nigel Swycher, CEO of Aistemos puts it: 
“Data and analysis relating to IP needs to be just as accessible as financial data, and not require a PhD or a law degree to understand it. That’s why we developed Cipher - if you put the right information into the hands of senior management at the right time, they will make better decisions. It’s that simple”.
The movement towards transparency will bolster this trend. Initiatives such as the Open Register of Patent Ownership (oropo.net) will help. In order for IP data to be trusted it needs to be accurate.

"We should expect very significant improvements in the quality, accessibility and effective use of IP data in the next few years, with much clearer linkages to value - otherwise the world's growth engine will stall" says Tony Clayton, board member of ORoPO and former chief economist at the UK IPO.

The future of IP in the boardroom

“Boards tend to focus on two areas: conformance and performance,” said the IoD’s Dadarkar, adding 
“There needs to be a balance of the two: not just conforming, in terms of corporate governance, but looking at future performance too. Boards should not just be looking to mitigate IP breaches; those processes should already be in place. Boards are just getting involved in the ‘performance’ side of IP.” 
According to Dadarkar, boards must evolve further if they are to leverage their innovation. “Risk and opportunity go hand in hand,” she said. “If your IP is one of your biggest assets - and for many companies it is their lifeblood, of more value than the product itself - then it has to be part of ongoing future strategy.”

To understand how boards might view IP in future, we can look at the behaviour of IP-rich companies today. Philips, the technology giant, is the largest patent applicant at the European Patent Office. It filed its first patent - to extend the burning time of a lightbulb - in 1905, and the corporation now owns 76,000 patents, 47,000 trademarks and 91,000 design rights.

“IP strategy is developed and implemented by my organisation across each of the Philips business groups,” says Brian Hinman, Chief Intellectual Property Officer (CIPO) at Philips.  He adds:
“The IP strategy is an integral component of the overall strategic plan on record for each of these businesses, and we always ensure an effective, integrated intellectual asset management (IIAM) approach in implementing these IP strategies.
This IIAM is a holistic approach whereby my organisation carefully analyses the needs of each business group and secures the optimum blend of each type of IP in order to maximise IP protection for the business. Intellectual Property & Standards employs a centralised organisational structure led by me to ensure speed of decision making and IP strategy execution."
One of the changes that has helped is the appointment of a new breed of CIPOs that report directly to the board. Some observers say that this does not go far enough and that C-suite status means that board representation is essential. Whatever the right answer to this question, what defines this new role is the ability to integrate IP into a business context - and this requires clear communication supported by verifiable data.

Nigel Swycher, who organised the Aistemos survey, does not see the need for such strict delineation: 
“Anything that goes to the heart of corporate value should be managed by the board. This means that tangible and intangible assets should receive equal scrutiny and attention."
Earlier posts in this series: