Managing intellectual property assets as part of company strategy
Two eminent professors from Harvard University, Felix Oberholzer-Gee (Harvard Business School) and William W. Fisher III (Harvard Law School) will this week give businesses an insight into how to structure their in-house analysis and decision-making processes to achieve suitable solutions to their Intellectual Property (IP) asset-related problems at a seminar on “Company Strategy and Intellectual Property”. They will also unveil their paper, recently published in the California Management Review with the title “Strategic Management of Intellectual Property: An Integrated Approach”.
The Harvard experts have based their study on two findings: first of all, according to a recent study by the US Economics and Statistics Administration, American companies whose key asset are their intellectual property rights over intangibles assets and whose business model consists essentially of the commercial exploitation of such assets, provide direct employment to 27 million people (in other words, accounting for 19% of the US labor market), generate 35% of the country’s GDP and represent almost 61% of the products exported and 19% of the services exported. Secondly, the fact that the United States remains the world’s leading economic powerhouse is in part due to an economy based on know-how and innovation, and the ability of its companies and executives to efficiently manage the tools and mechanisms contemplated in the intellectual property legislation.
According to the Harvard experts, the proper management of IP assets by companies necessarily calls for involvement on the part of senior management in decision-making relating to such assets and their leaders’ ability to identify and understand the various strategic options on offer in line with the intellectual property legislation and to duly weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of each one, basing their decisions on the well-founded and coordinated input of their legal and technical backup staff.
The Harvard experts will attempt to explain, in layman’s terms and based on specific examples drawn from American business life, that the way forward is to follow the example of the companies that are wise to the fact that decisions in intangible assets cannot simply be delegated to legal backroom staff, for this is not simply a case of more or less fairly straightforward formalities (obtaining exclusive title instruments and activating legal mechanisms to protect them against third party infringements). Quite the contrary, the variable and options on offer are legion (patents vs. secrecy; maintaining exclusivity vs. licensing, prohibiting vs. collaborating, seeking protection under the copyright legislation or patent protection mechanisms; etc.), the legal substance and collateral impact of which in terms of company positioning and competitiveness must be painstakingly analyzed and weighed up from a range of perspectives and in terms of costs and benefits.
The real importance of all such considerations, at first glance banal and a matter of simple common sense, will emerge when illustrated with real case studies and examples from business life, which is where the interest in the contribution made by the Harvard professors no doubt lies.
Garrigues Intellectual Property Department