Strategy for Intellectual Property
David Kalow is a University of Chicago law graduate, and now focuses exclusively on intellectual property. According to David, most companies – both large and small – need help to improve their strategy for intellectual property (IP). This includes making it even more valuable, cost-effective, and revenue-enhancing. IP strategy leverages a company’s most critical assets in the 21st century global economy: ideas and creativity.
Ultimately, he helps you to create and implement an effective, long-term strategy to manage your valuable intellectual property assets, including assets you may not even realize that you have!
Was Intellectual Property Strategizing Always in the Cards?
David shares that his earliest goal was to be a space pirate. These dreams were based on his interest in sci-fi, and he was sure they’d come together at some point. As he grew up, he assumed he’d find himself working in science, or some other “nerdy” field. He never visualized business!
Once he completed law school and entered the field, David found that he learned deal-making slowly and academically. Starting his own law firm, and later his own solo practice, was his own way of being an entrepreneur. It may not have been what he planned, but he’s excelled!
Now, David’s objective is to make it easier to expand and accelerate business development while reducing legal fees. Your improved IP strategy can strengthen market positions, increase valuation, assist with funding and VC, energize deal making and strategic partnerships. It can even improve hiring, marketing and sales. It benefits early stage startups as much as small, medium and Fortune 100 enterprises, as well as those who finance them, such as VC’s and private equity.
Strategy for Intellectual Property
Any business has intellectual property, and David believes most business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t taking full advantage of it. He does see pharma, medical device creators, and biotech companies tending to appreciate IP and use best practices to strategize it the most. However, even there he tends to see many mistakes made.
According to David, most of these mistakes are common and avoidable when you know what you’re doing and understand the field.
For example, a strong strategy for intellectual property looks at all of an organization’s potential intellectual assets. It then uses every possible IP tool: legal and procedural, formal and informal. The first things people think of, like filing patents, trademarks, and copyrights, are really just foundational basics in what should be a much more comprehensive strategy.
Assuming that doing those basic tasks is enough is a huge mistake (and a very common one)!
Intellectual Property Isn’t Just for the “Big Guys”
David finds that strategizing their intellectual property is most important for startups and small businesses. Why? Because in the beginning, that can be all you have.
There are three major property types: land, personal property, intangible. Most of today’s companies aren’t based on owning large amounts of land or unique personal property (like factories, et). Rather, they are based on intangible assets.
If you don’t know how to use, understand, and appreciate IP, you won’t last. Missing opportunities to strategize your intellectual property will injure your revenue making capacity and potentially ruin your business. On the show, David and I discuss a few options for entrepreneurs and business owners to leverage their IP. One important option?
Use an appropriate blend of patent, trademark, and copyrighting.
There are so many ways to leverage your IP! You have to think about how you can leverage them in order to accelerate and strengthen your business. This includes deal-making with those intangible assets, as well as getting protection to ensure that you’ll retain downstream usage of your IP.
The worst use of your IP? Getting it wrapped up in litigation! Think through the fight if you want to avoid the fight, and get the protection you need to confidently strategize for using your IP on the market and within your business.
Think Creatively & Build Your Long Game
For 20 years, David had a client who collected hefty royalties from well-protected IP. By using patents and trademarks across multiple dimensions (software, chemicals, engineering, etc), they were able to bring to market a product that was necessary…and that simply couldn’t be provided without their input.
Rather than only protect their output, they found ways to protect their valuable processes, systems, and tools that made that output possible in the long run.
For years it was standard for computers to have CD-ROM players. Of course CD’s were patented, and the IP involved in their creation and use allowed the creators to benefit for years. It wouldn’t have been market-friendly to have every system use a completely different tool, and the best-positioned one was able to earn the whole market (and the financial gains that came with it).
Cartier watches were able to use trade dress (appearance of goods as the trademark) in a powerful way that enabled them to stand out in the luxury watch market. There are so many ways to leverage intellectual property, especially when you’re familiar with how the field works and what your options are. (This part of the episode reminded me of Bill Cates interview on leveraging IP!)
Make Sure You Protect Your IP Rights
Make sure you have the right agreements with employees and contractors to ensure that IP is flowing into the company. You must own your own rights, and sometimes when you work with freelancers or others on the work-for-hire market you don’t always have the ownership you think you have.
Rather than open yourself up for disputes down the road, you’ll want to do your due diligence on the front end to ensure that you’re protected!
Another note: IP doesn’t mean you have to become greedy and Scrooge-like! Strategy for intellectual property can be good for you, your business, and the world. David notes that research has shown that open federal patents are rarely utilized. Why? There is no ownership incentive, so it’s hard to generate funding or find people willing to invest time and energy to build them out. After all, whatever they create isn’t really theirs.
When you protect your work and have ownership, there can be a positive incentive towards building and investing.
The real reason behind patents is to reward owners and investors. After all, if there is no chance in a return, there is likely no one who will invest. Whenever money gets put into an idea, there is no guarantee that it will work out as planned. Having that idea protected and invested in gives it a chance to take its shape and change the world!
Patents also allow us to maintain and share ideas, without losing our rights. There are so many technologies of old, based on trade secrets, that are simply gone forever. Why? Because the inventors kept them secret, and no one knows how they worked! We diminish the power (and losses) inherent in trade secrets when we make it safe to share our discoveries and work.
Listen in to learn more about how to best create strategy for your intellectual property!
Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.
If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!