Intellectual Assets such as ideas, inventions and creations are important tools in today’s business environment. A good idea can make or break a business. When seen from the intellectual property perspective, ideas are normally classified as abstract or concrete.
Abstract ideas are those that are in the mind and those that cannot be implemented, worked or reduced to practice. For example, a plan to write a book or a solution that can make one vanish. The first idea is still in the mind, and the second one is not workable. Therefore, both are abstract ideas. Such ideas are not treated favourably by Intellectual Property law.
Ideas that are expressed, workable or implementable are referred as concrete ideas. For example, a writing on a piece of paper, or an automobile that can travel in air and water. Both the aforesaid ideas are concrete, and are protectable as Intellectual Property.
Every business, irrespective of its nature and size, has concrete ideas of one form or the other, which are capable of being protected as intellectual property. While some businesses protect the said ideas aggressively, others take a moderate or defensive approach. Many other businesses, especially in the Indian context, are unaware of the existence of concrete ideas, and/or their value as Intellectual Property.
At a general level, want of knowledge of intellectual assets held by a business among senior management of the business can be classified as:
- Dearth of Intellectual Property knowledge; and
- Inability to find ideas that have Intellectual Property potential.
The first category of businesses may be aware of some of their ideas, but they do not know that such ideas can be protected as Intellectual Property. Obviously, such businesses cannot and do not take any measures to take advantage of their intellectual assets for business benefit. The Intellectual Property of these businesses is either lost due to non-protection, or languishes on the shelf.
Businesses of the second category are IP aware, but capitalize on only a part of their ideas, and many ideas remain unfound. They are simply lost in various layers of the business, and senior management are often blissfully unaware of their existence. Though the proportion varies from company to company, even the most IP savvy companies miss out on numerous potentially valuable ideas. The senior management in these businesses are knowledgeable, they have the requisite business tools, and more often than not, have financial resources to gain business advantage from the ideas, but they are unable to do that simply because they miss out on identifying ideas, or identifying ideas at the right time.
From the experience of providing Intellectual Property advice for more than six hundred companies in different domains, the author estimates that the split between businesses in the first and second category as of 2015 is fifty-fifty. Among companies in the second category, the author estimates that more than seventy percent of businesses miss out on more than sixty percent of ideas generated by them.
Naturally, the percentages vary from sector to sector. For example, electronics/telecom companies are more IP savvy and normally capture more ideas than manufacturing companies. There is also variability based on a series of other factors ranging from size of the business to location of the business. The situation was dramatically different in 2005, at which time, the ratio between the two categories was Ninety: Ten.
Experts have proposed some solutions to find and protect ideas as Intellectual Property, and mechanisms to create business value out of such ideas. Most solutions revolve around training and awareness programs, inventor incentive schemes and internal harvesting exercises, but do not include hands on efforts to set the idea ball rolling. One hands on solution that has worked very well, but has not been extensively used by businesses for generating business value from their ideas is IP Audit/Mining.
Contributed with the support of the IP Strategy and Consulting Division of BananaIP.
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