Intellectual Property: A Cash Cow or White Elephant

Intellectual Property: A Cash Cow or White Elephant

Vivek Singh, Head - IP Filing & Prosecution, Sagacious Research

Do you perceive IP as an expenditure in your annual budget and take it as something which is beyond the reach of a buddingenterprise? With respect to your innovation, do you also face a constant dilemma of whether to opt for IP protection or not? If you are sailing in the same boat, then this article would broaden your horizon and change your perception towards IP.

Interestingly, decades ago, commercial power and thus the wealth was primarily in the hands of capitalists. But the time has changed, and has observed a shift of commercial power from tangible to intangible assets. IP doesn’t necessarily have to be something revolutionary; a simple solution to an existing problem could be a game changer. IP is being generated around us always. The important element is to identify, sow the seeds of its protection, followed by reaping the benefits.

In recent years, IP has been given an up-thrust by Government of India, which is evident from the initiatives like announcement of nation’s first IP policy (after 69 years of independence), launch of CIPAM, AGNIi (Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations under Invest India) and several high-level administrative reforms.

To understand what it takes to be an IP Savvy organization, let’s traverse into various stages of IP lifecycle, which are IP Generation, IP Protection, IP Enforcement, and IP Commercialization (last two stages are inter-linked and overlapping).

The IP journey takes-off with R&D, wherein the idea is conceptualized at first.R&D process could be sped upbyusingvaluable information disclosed in patents. Smart use of patent documents provides valuable information on state-of the art, which may enable an enterprise to avoid unnecessary wastage of resources, thereby reducing the time and high R&D costs. Patent information could also be usedfor improvementsand/or to design-around.A patent whose equivalent hasn’t been filed for protection in a country of interest, can also be utilized in similar way. You may name it ‘Smart R&D’ (Generation stage).

It’s also important toensure that the subject invention doesn’t end-up infringing IPs of others

and therefore, an FTO (Freedom to Operate) evaluation is required to avoid potential risk factors. In the protection stage, the invention is filed for protection. Once IP is registered, the IP holder becomes entitled to hold others liable for infringing their IP (Enforcement stage). Finally, the revenue generation stage arrives where investment into the IP is recovered and, monetary gains are made through licensing of core or non-core IP, assignment, and filing of infringement proceedings.

Manytimes, premature decline of companies is due to lack of implementation of appropriate IP strategies at early stages of their life cycle.For better understanding of commercial angle interlinked withIP, let’s take an illustration of Tivo Corporation, an American technology company which was on the verge of maturity stage in 2017, but miraculously turned their entire revenue stream by adopting IP monetization strategies, and thus boosted their revenue by 57 percent in 2017 itself.

Adopting appropriate IP strategies can turn any business into an evergreen tree with its roots built upon a flow of everlasting revenue

Lack of resources often drives enterprises to opt for keeping their innovation hidden in order to avoid the costs of IP protection. Often, these enterprises tend to overlook the possibility of accidental disclosures, which eventually lead to snapping the IPs out of their hands. A budding IP savvy company can rather easily partner with dominant players of that sector and ensure accelerated entry and growth in the market.

Some of the parables in the history of IP are Arunachalam Muruganantham (a low-cost sanitary pad machine), Bikram Choudhury (devised his style of yoga - Bikram Yoga), Kannan Lakshminarayan (Carding Machine), Shepards (a spill proof bowl - Gyro Bowl). There are many such success stories from across the globe, wherein the grass-root innovators, startups, and MSMEs have made their fortune just by being IP savvy. You may have come across American Genius and Shark Tank. In both these TV series, you will observe IP to be at the core of all the business strategies.

Adopting appropriate IP strategies can turn any business into an evergreen tree with its roots built upon a flow of everlasting revenue. Further, it enables an entity to avoid unfortunate encounter of pitfalls of disruption. Thus, IP, true to its name, is an income producing cash cow instead of a pocket burning white elephant, if used wisely.