I received a somewhat menacing email from my HR department last week.  I'm behind on completing my annual appraisals and if I don't complete by next week, there will, I am sure be "consequences".

I'm fine with this - our Head of HR (Angus) is simply doing his job - he is responsible for managing all staff "assets" across Eversheds including maximising and focussing their performance - appraisals and objective setting support this. Angus has a budget, a team and a reporting line into our Senior Management Team to make sure this stays on track.

What has this got to do with intellectual property?

If you look at what powers your business, it's certainly true that people are fundamental - however, it is the innovation and creativity that flows from those people that often turns a contender into a champion.  Do we employ the same rigour when managing and exploiting those innovative and creative assets - are they subject to annual performance appraisal?  Thought not.

At a recent Eversheds seminar series, I put on the table a number of ways that businesses can generate money or save money using their intellectual property.  For example:

  • using IP to support corporate valuation
  • licensing programmes
  • using the tax system to your advantage
  • managing your IP portfolio effectively

It seemed to strike a chord but I have to say that I'm still left with the feeling that we still have work to do before we can really get on with the interesting business of monetizing intellectual property.  Have a look at these questions, and give yourself a prize if you can say yes to each one:

  • IP is a central part of our corporate strategy and there are defined corporate objectives to support this - it even has a section in our Annual Report to shareholders
  • we have a full managed record of the key IP we own (registered and unregistered, remember to think about trade secrets!)
  • key staff in the business have been trained on IP acquisition and management
  • we monitor and report on competitor IP
  • our finance function plays a key role in IP issues
  • we have a senior stakeholder who oversees IP on behalf of the organisation

This is all pretty basic management stuff and often many of the elements are there but are held in different parts of the business. Tax is in finance, IP lies in legal, management are looking at other priorities and so on. So it's not surprising that it can be hard to get an enterprise wide IP programme moving.

However, that is the foundation stone that underpins effective monetization as it provides the structure and environment in which activities such as licensing programmes can be established.  By taking the time and investing in this first overarching step, you would be making the first move from

IP as a cost

to

IP as an asset

In later articles, I'll be expanding on some of the specific monetizing concepts that I have been speaking about recently and it would be great to hear about your experiences also.

Now back to my appraisals!