Monday, 27 July 2015

The Economist Guide to Intellectual Property: a review

The Economist Guide to Intellectual Property: What it is, How to protect it, How to exploit it, by Stephen Johnson, is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill IP textbook. The title itself gives a clue: with the imprimatur of The Economist comes the promise of a book that guides thought rather than bombard it with legal detail, and of content that is directed to the sentient business community -- people who need to know about IP and to speak to IP specialists without having to master the technical details themselves. Other clues include the absence of tables of statutes and cases and the affordable price. As the publishers state in their web-blurb:
Intellectual Property (IP) is worth an estimated $5trn in the US alone. It covers patents, trademarks, domain names, copyrights, trade secrets and know-how. The IP of a big brand can be worth tens of billions of dollars. And yet IP is hard to value; accountants struggle with it, and banks treat it cautiously as loan collateral.

Unsurprisingly, companies zealously guard their own ideas and fight to acquire those of others. Damages arising from infringements have fostered a sizeable claims industry. But IP law is complex. Protections deemed excessive to one party are seen as inadequate to another. Court decisions and interpretation of IP laws can be unpredictable, and can dramatically change the fortunes of businesses that rely on their IP - as demonstrated in the pharmaceutical industry's battle with generic drugs.

This guide to intellectual property will help companies, investors, and creative thinkers understand the scope and nature of IP issues, and maximize the value from this crucial intangible asset.
Readers of this blog, and members of the intangible asset community, may well know the author: Stephen was named this year as one of the world's leading IP strategists in Intellectual Asset Management's IAM Strategy 300 survey. After a long and successful spell in private practice with leading law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP he migrated his talents to the charity sector, where he is now CIPO with US charity One Mind.

Any book on IP that doesn't go much beyond 300 pages is bound to be written in generalised terms, particularly when those pages are small, the print is decent-sized and there are plenty of bullet-points. This book is no exception: it spans many different IP rights and markets in which they are relevant, as well as taking account of the sometimes quite different way in which IP is protected and used on both sides of the Atlantic. However, it's a lot harder to write a short book than a long one and, in this case, the Guide's relative brevity is actually its strength: it provides clarity and a sense of direction that decision-makers and investors will appreciate.

You can check out this book for yourself here.

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