Intellectual Property (IP) is often seen as a weapon to be wielded against competitors. Businesses pour resources into securing their patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets with the goal of keeping their competitors at bay. But what if the key to successful IP strategy lies not in litigation, but in collaboration?
As an intellectual property consultant, I’ve seen firsthand how businesses often view IP as a means to an end. They see it as a tool for protecting their market share, fending off competitors, and keeping trade secrets out of the hands of others. In many cases, this approach is successful. Litigation and other forms of aggressive IP protection can help businesses maintain a competitive edge.
But it’s not the only way to approach IP, and it may not be the best approach for all businesses.
Navigating a successful IP collaboration requires expert analysis of the IP environment and agreements, so that companies don’t get taken advantage of. In any IP collaboration, it’s important to carefully consider issues such as ownership, licensing, and protection of intellectual property. Both parties need to have a clear understanding of what IP is being contributed to the collaboration, who owns it, and how it can be used. This is where an experienced IP consultant can be invaluable. They can help companies navigate the complexities of IP law, identify potential risks and challenges, and draft agreements that protect the interests of all parties involved. By investing in expert analysis and guidance, companies can ensure that their IP collaborations are built on a solid foundation, and that they are able to reap the benefits of collaboration without exposing themselves to unnecessary risk. Contact the Author for a free consultation on how ipCapital Group can help you identify and leverage partners in your IP strategy.
Examples of Collaborative IP
Consider the example of open-source software. Rather than locking down their code and guarding it like a closely-held secret, companies like Red Hat and IBM have built thriving businesses by embracing open-source principles and working collaboratively with developers around the world. These companies recognize that the value of their software lies not in its secrecy, but in its ability to solve real-world problems and create value for their customers.
Fitness Meets Technology
Another example of a business that used a collaborative IP strategy to benefit businesses and customers is the partnership between Nike and Apple. In 2006, the two companies collaborated to create the Nike+iPod Sports Kit, a product that combined Nike’s expertise in athletic footwear and apparel with Apple’s technology and design capabilities.
The product consisted of a sensor that could be placed in a Nike+ shoe and a receiver that connected to an iPod or iPhone, allowing runners to track their distance, time, and calories burned while listening to music. The partnership was a win-win for both companies: Nike was able to leverage Apple’s technology to create a new product category, while Apple was able to tap into Nike’s loyal customer base and expertise in sports performance.
The Nike+iPod Sports Kit was a huge success, and paved the way for future collaborations between the two companies. In 2016, they released the Apple Watch Nike+, a smartwatch designed specifically for runners that integrated Nike’s Run Club app with Apple’s technology. The partnership continues to this day, with Nike and Apple working together to create innovative products that combine fashion, technology, and sport.
By collaborating, Nike and Apple were able to create a product that was greater than the sum of its parts. They were able to leverage each other’s strengths and create something that neither company could have done alone. And in the process, they were able to create value for their customers and build stronger, more resilient businesses.
Of course, not every business can or should embrace open-source. Some industries and products require a more traditional approach to IP protection. But the lesson here is clear: when you approach IP with an eye towards collaboration and partnership, you open up new opportunities for innovation and growth.
Building A Collaborative Business
So how can businesses put this idea into practice? Here are a few suggestions:
- Build strategic partnerships with other businesses in your industry. Rather than viewing your competitors as enemies, look for ways to work together to create value for your customers. By collaborating with others in your industry, you can share knowledge, resources, and expertise, and find new ways to solve problems and create value.
- Consider licensing your IP to others. Rather than trying to keep your IP under lock and key, consider licensing it to others who can use it to create value for their own customers. This can be a win-win situation for both parties, as you earn revenue from your IP while others benefit from its use.
- Embrace open innovation. Open innovation is a process by which businesses collaborate with external partners, such as customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, to create new products and services. By opening up your innovation process to others, you can tap into a wider range of ideas and expertise, and accelerate your time to market.
- Join industry associations and participate in standards-setting organizations. By participating in these groups, you can help shape industry standards and best practices, and collaborate with others to create new technologies and products.
Of course, there may be times when litigation or other forms of aggressive IP protection are necessary. But by approaching IP with an eye towards collaboration and partnership, businesses can create new opportunities for innovation and growth, and build stronger, more resilient industries. So the next time you find yourself embroiled in an IP dispute, take a step back and consider whether there might be a way to work collaboratively with your competitor instead.
Who knows? You just might find that your biggest competitor today could be your most valuable partner tomorrow.