Written by guest blogger Todd Soulas, Manager, Strategy & Transformation at Capgemini.
Intellectual Property (IP) can take many forms but expressed simply, it is the property of your mind. Unfortunately, many businesses in Australia (and overseas) do not invest enough in understanding their IP. Recently, the UK IP Office released research that showed a low level of awareness of IP amongst businesses. While in the US, a lack of IP knowledge among the business community led to the creation of the Centre for Intellectual Property Understanding earlier this year.
IP is about more than just legal rights; it’s about identifying the core value of a business (and then protecting it). Thus, a lack of IP knowledge not only exposes a business to certain risks but also reduces its ability to seize opportunities. This core value is different from a related concept called a value proposition, however, it is related in that it is a measure of a business’ success in delivering that value proposition.
For example, an ecommerce company’s core value might be its relationships — which are recorded on its customer list — as well its brand or reputation. As the business delivers on its value proposition, its customer list should grow, and the value of its brand will also grow. Thus, to build a strong strategy the business should ensure that its ability to deliver on its value proposition via its core value is protected through the use of appropriate mechanisms.
This link between value proposition and core value highlights the important role that IP plays in business strategy. It follows then that a business with an IP strategy will have a better understanding of its core value and thus a better chance of developing a successful business strategy. In fact, just the process of identifying and understanding a business’ core value and how to protect it can enhance the inputs for a higher level business strategy.
This approach works for two reasons – it allows businesses to identify the drivers of value and leads them to methods to protect and leverage it, as well as highlighting potential weaknesses when they do not have the rights (or strong enough rights) to the requisite IP that underlies their core value. A number of high profile legal cases recently have highlighted the importance of this when setting business strategy. For instance, the cases of Zenimax v Facebook/Oculus and Google/Waymo v Uber have shown the issues that may arise when business strategy is built on a core value that was not as clearly protected as it could have been.
For some businesses it may be as simple as protecting their ‘brand’ by smart use of copyright and trademark protections and for others it may involve the application for, and licencing of, patents. However, in all circumstances, neglecting IP strategy will leave blind spots in any business strategy – and if it isn’t a well formulated strategy – is it really a strategy at all?
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