‘Tomorrow will be unlike today’ – the industrial revolution – Part II

definition of IPBroad Definition of IP:

IP means different things to different people. It is important to have a very broad definition of IP when considering this new business control point. Imagine for a moment the Royal Air Force’s roundel, that red, white and blue circular identification mark painted on aircraft to identify them. That roundel has also been associated with pop art of the 1960s It became part of the pop consciousness when British rock group The Who wore RAF roundels as part of their stage apparel at the start of their career. Subsequently it came to symbolise Mods and the Mod revival.

The outer blue circle:
This refers to the knowledge and know-how, skills, competencies and experiences of your people. It is the value that the employees of a business provide through the application of their skills, know-how and expertise. Intellectual capital is an organisation’s combined human capability for solving business problems. Intellectual capital is inherent in people.

The middle white circle:
I basically see this sub-category as including everything and anything documented either manually or automatically within a company or organisation. Business plans, meeting minutes, supplier lists, customer details, process descriptions, product specifications, test scripts, data both raw and processed, etc etc all fall into this important sub-category.

The inner red circle:
This refers to that collection of formal and informal IP Rights. It is most important to realise that there are multiple regimes of intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks, designs, domain names, copyright and trade-secrets. These rights are recognised as some of the most important IP assets a company may possess.
In this new industrial revolution, it is most important to have a very broad definition of IP.

A More Enlightened View of IP:

Apart from having adopting a very broad definition of IP, I would argue that these pure or almost pure IP companies are also embracing a much more enlightened view of IP and how to play the IP ‘game’.

Legal and intellectual property text books typically describe intellectual property and patents in particular in somewhat negative terms. For example, a patent is not a right to practice or use the invention, rather, a patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale or importing the patented invention for the term of the patent, which is usually twenty years from the filing date. A patent is, in effect, a limited property right that the government offers to inventors in exchange for their agreement to share the details of their inventions with the public.

However, the legal aspects of intellectual property sometimes get too much attention, while the business aspects suffer. It is as if when looking at a tree, all we saw were the roots. Yes, the roots of a tree serve an important role to anchor it to the ground and gather water and nutrients to transfer to all parts of the tree, and for reproduction defense, survival, energy storage and many, many other purposes. However, it is the trunk, the branches and especially the leaves of the tree which capture our attention.

This more enlightened view describes intangible assets and intellectual property in particular as a means to build innovation as opposed to block. Innovation is reliant on some form of management and control. Intellectual property is the means to manage this process as knowledge and technology needs to be managed as transactions of objects in the development stages as these objects may now be as valuable as or even more so than the resulting products and services. Intellectual property in this regards can be seen as a means to objectify knowledge so it can be properly managed. Without an understanding and appreciation of intangible assets and intellectual property, technology development becomes prohibitively difficult.

This is a fresher way of viewing intellectual property, namely as a management system for knowledge-based business instead of a legal right to exclude others.

Author: Donal O’Connel

Managing Director, Chawton Innovation Services Limited

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