Having been actively engaged in safeguarding – preserving value of intangible asset since the early 1990’s…as an academic researcher initially, and now as an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist, I am hard pressed to understand why administrations, cabinet secretaries, media pundits, and even corporate c-suites, consistently mis-portray – perhaps misunderstand how to correctly describe the types-categories of proprietary assets being targeted by economic – competitive advantage adversaries. That is, consistently, the targets – losses attributed to global economic espionage are cited as intellectual property, i.e., patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, etc. spurious as that is.
My suspicions are, by continuing to purposefully or unwittingly portray these events – the losses…as being exclusively related to – involving only intellectual property (IP), there is an intention to bring questions to…
• bring questions to global economic – trade fairness and foreign government adherence to international (trade) laws.
• elevate a sense of time sensitivity and importance to remedy any transgressions.
In my business reality, having spoken to general-public audiences numbering in the thousands…on issues related to intellectual property and intangible assets, it is my assessment, that only a relatively small percentage possess an operational level familiarity of either category and sub-category of asset.
Intellectual property and other forms of intangible assets and the…
• intricacies, distinctions, implications, and impact of either being stolen, misappropriated, or infringed, and
• how and to whom either becomes legally defensible property, and
• how and under what circumstances, and why either produces value, competitive advantage, and sources of revenue, are respectfully elusive.
So, government officials and the multitude of media echo-chambers...from which citizens globally seek – receive their news, continue to characterize economic espionage through a narrow ‘intellectual property only’ lens.
Presumably, they believe – are told applying IP-related language only, is more understandable – readily understood, often based on – supplemented with the single word descriptor, i.e., patent, which most everyone presumes some knowledge.
Are these merely distinctions without differences…certainly not, in my judgment and my experiences. That-is-to-say, a company’s intangible assets, e.g., it’s intellectual, structural, and relationship capital (know how), unequivocally today, comprise 80+% of most company’s sources of value, revenue, and competitiveness. More specifically, a company’s collective know how becomes embedded in – serves as foundations to conventional intellectual properties, i.e., the content of patents, trademarks, trade secrets, etc. So it is the various intangible assets, which include IP, that constitute the real targets of economic espionage and data mining regularly engaged in by global cadres of economic and competitive advantage adversaries.
In other words, these know how – knowledge-based assets are precisely what the economic – competitive advantage adversaries’ globally need, want…and will aggressively and stealthily seek because, among other things, being successful in acquiring those categories of assets is the quickest route to achieving (global, niche) competitiveness and profitability.
It is true, issued patents provide necessary legal standing…for holders to bring criminal and/or civil action against alleged infringers, those who misappropriate, and/or product counterfeiters. And yes, one of the requisites for a countries’ membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) is having in place a comprehensive intellectual property rights (enforcement) regime.
I do hold great respect for holders of an issued patent…in large part because it usually speaks volumes about the patent holder’s diligence, knowledge, and likely well-deserved achievement. A patent issuance certificate certainly warrants framing and hung on a wall of prominence for all to see and dutifully admire.
I advise clients to not assume an issued patent…
• constitutes an absolute – specific deterrent to ‘idea’ infringement, misappropriation, and/or theft by the growing global cadre of economic and competitive advantage adversaries.
• magically serves as standalone safeguard for the duration or its life-value-functionality cycle, whichever comes first.
Seeking the issuance of a patent, of course, is often a business decision and/or transaction requisite, pure and simple, particularly…
• when investors are involved who demand risk mitigation and recourse options upon infringement, and
• in today’s globally aggressive, increasingly predatorial, winner-take-all, and go fast, go hard, go global, go black (business) transaction environments.
So respectfully, any assumption that the issuance of a patent serves, in any way, as a specific deterrent…to economic espionage or competitive advantage adversaries or insiders inclined to misappropriate the assets and their foundational-underlying know how, i.e., intellectual – structural capital, represents not just wishful thinking, rather naïve thinking which has outlived its previous centuries of relevance.
So, please consider this…why would an economic – competitive advantage adversary (country, government entity, or even independent (legacy free) data mining – information broker operation, or competitive intelligence group, undertake the risk of acquiring (stealing) the contents of a patent, i.e., usually its structural capital?
The answer to that question lies, in my view, in pure economic competitiveness…which translates as engaging in and acquiring what’s necessary to out-perform, or otherwise get ahead of competitors and rivals, irrespective of their being a (a.) sector – country specific competitor, (b.) regional competitor, or (c.) defense (contractor) competitor.
After all, issued patents (essentially the same information) will eventually be published in open source, in the U.S. anyway, through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, http://us.gov.uspto if not by the inventor themselves in a relevant professional – academic journal.
I purposefully belabor this point as the basis for making these distinctions…which are, after many years of investigative (business) research along much of the economic espionage spectrum, this issue goes directly to the heart of, perhaps the most important question for U.S. company’s chief security officers, which is…
- how and which proprietary – knowledge assets, i.e., intellectual, structural, relationship capital, warrants higher level and more sophisticated safeguards and resilience planning?
The answer is quite clear, it is the intellectual, structural, and relationship capital…categories of (intangible) assets that possess – deliver the greatest contributory role and value to a company in terms of sources of revenue and competitiveness. And, otherwise serve as key (essential) ‘building blocks’ for company sustainability and growth.
Michael D. Moberly April 10, 2018 St. Louis email@example.com The ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ where attention span really matters’!