Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chief IP Officer

(Image courtesy of

Coming up in Amsterdam is the first ever Chief IP Officer Summit being presented by Intellectual Asset Magazine and Ocean Tomo.

I will not be going this year, but wanted to prepare something important for those who will be attending.

The CIPO in every company must be the CEO and no one else. Whomever is designated functional head of IP (whether a licensing, legal, technical, or financial professional), it must be their job to:

1) Iteratively and clearly understand the strategy and needs of the business.

2) Determine organizationally, what IP issues will need to be addressed by whom and how important will those issues be relative to the other issues on that professionals plate. (This prioritization step is left out of nearly every corporate IP strategy I have ever seen.)

3) Look for opportunities where the IP function can make other functional tasks easier in the core business. (This includes providing IP based market analysis, competitive insights, technology positioning, financial valuations, inventor recruiting, etc.)

4) Design an IP organization that can rapidly address the highest priority needs to enable the business. Not just the traditional IP needs.

5) Deploy and execute.

6) Measure your results, in dollars, yen or euros, and report back to the executive staff.

Despite one's career ambitions and the need for a functional head to manage the complex and critical needs of an IP department, disassociating IP from the core business is a bad and dangerous idea. We have the opportunity to eliminate many of the negative connotations and stigmas associated with other (often) disassociated functional heads (e.g. CIO, GC, etc.) and it is important we remain focused on doing so.

For example, when IP is a stand-alone organization, the office and function is often seen similar to that of a CIO and IT department; fundamentally serving as a necessary enabler, but not critical or core to business development. In this situation, typically a substantial licensing program is necessary for the organization to remain relevant.

If one looks at a CIPO as head of a function in a legal organization, too often they are unfortunately labeled as business roadblocks; one which needs to be checked with, hassled by, and finally overcome before products can be offered. It takes a special person to avoid and mitigate that perception and interact seamlessly with technology and business leaders.

If we remain focused on enabling business development faster, as above, our function will naturally align with executive decision makers.

So while the title Chief Intellectual Property Officer (or something similar: IP Managing Director, VP of Intangibles, Exalted Head of the Unseen) is important to differentiate IP from other functions, it is absolutely critical that we do not unintentionally disassociate our function with the core business. As an industry, instead of creating another peripheral function, our goal should be to make CEO's, CIPO's themselves.