Cashing In On Intellectual Property

Maximizing Innovation by Translating Intellectual Property into Revenue

What’s in your IP cupboard?

Progressive companies create innovation teams. They invest countless man-hours, dollars and other resources in investigating and pursuing innovation. Yet they often leave their intellectual property untouched, thereby failing to translate patents and other IP into revenue opportunities.

American industry and academia hold some two million current patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Yet, the vast majority remain idle. In a tight economy – and even in the best of times, failure to exploit existing patents for profit means more than money’s being left on the table. New opportunities – and the possibilities they spawn in kind – are lost.

At a recent Intellectual Property Owners meeting in Atlanta, the importance of corporate innovation and IP governance were tied directly to the potential for value creation. The consensus was that this untapped resource represents a significant lost potential value and income generation.

The combined roles of innovation governance and IP management cannot be over-emphasized. While the roles of corporate IP governance, supervision and even leadership are critical, companies that have respectable IP portfolios must install an IP Officer on the innovation teams or new product development board. The intention would be for the IP Officer or team to…

  • Manage the IP portfolio, keeping a keen eye on that place where consumer or market trends and the portfolio intersect.
  • Present opportunities to the innovation or NPD teams. And
  • Work with those teams to craft approaches to maximize potential monetization.

Even small businesses with no IP portfolio can maximize IP potential. For example, IP Teams can search IP auctions or licensing opportunities to see how patents available match with the company’s goals or vision. For example, some 40% of the two million patents held are “common patents” for such generic products as components or parts for automobiles and software elements for cell phones. The patent owners often work out licensing agreements to put the patent into use. It can be cumbersome, costly and time consuming to work out one on one deals. But it often can serve the buyer’s near- and long-term needs.

One such marketplace about to take off , IPX International seeks to work with corporate IP owners and market leaders to maximize intellectual asset management on an open market exchange. “Establishing a fair and reasonable price for IP, the Exchange provides companies with an economical opportunity to be both a corporate good citizen and an innovative leader.”

In the end, these seized opportunities can increase shareholder value.

At the IPO conference and around Innovation war rooms across the business landscape, smart organizations are realizing that IP exploitation is an enabler. It empowers companies to transform often idle holdings into a significant source of income generation and the mindset for continued innovative thinking.

Managing that place where innovation and the IP portfolio meet is not a one-off event. This process must be a habit, an ever-present line-item on the Innovation / NPD To-Do List. Only when it is emphasized and embraced internally will it ensure the contents of the cupboard become fuel for the bottom line.

By Robert Brands with Jeff Zbar

Robert Brands is the founder of, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation“: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman, published Spring, 2010 by Wiley.