Intangible Assets And The iPhone Prototype…

Michael D. Moberly    April 27, 2010

An increasingly important requisite to a successful launch of new innovation or product is, as Apple knows better than most, not permitting prototypes to be left in bars.   For Apple, long recognized as the epitome of corporate secrecy, that particular incident was, to be sure, an anomaly. 

An increasingly important requisite to successful launches of a new product or innovation today, is not overlooking the economic fact-business reality that 65+% of the value underlying that launch are intangible assets!

Apple clearly understood this well, by virtue of the remote ‘shut down’ capabilities it incorporated into its prototypes and could be executed once the absent minded engineer alerted the company to his blunder.  In the R&D world of prototypes and new product launches, be assured, there is no lack of adversaries, competitors, and a variety of other entities who are well positioned to instaneously exploit, if not influence, such opportunities (misques).

Thus, the effectiveness and success of new product-innovation launches today are increasingly dependant on protecting and sustaining control and use of any and all distinguishing and competitive advantage delivering features, i.e., those intangible assets embedded in the innovation-product.

The premature disclosure or compromise of any distinguishing or competitive advantage delivering feature or component, particularly in about-to-be launched innovation or products, will, for most company’s, present a substantial and generally irreversible economic – competitive advantage blow by, among other things, (a.) putting the company in the untenuous (undesirable) position of having to decide whether to waylay an already announced launch date, or (b.) advance a launch date in a not-so-disguised defensive effort to deflect or absorb any adverse publicity stemming from the reality that the product – innovation has probably already fallen into the hands of adversaries and/or competitors, been dissected, and the findings disseminated.  Depending on what the ‘finders’ objectives are, those findings may enter the public domain.

But, if/when the genie gets out of the bottle, an essential requisite for commencing recovery is no delay in discovering and/or being alerted to the incident.  Delays will complicate and weaken a company’s (legal) position and the possibility of achieving even a reasonably favorable outcome, i.e., retrieval of the intangible assets.

Integral to the asset – value recovery process is having conducted, in advance, a thorough intangible asset – competitive advantage assessment of the new product – innovation to identify each of the ‘genies’ embedded in the product-innovation and what will be required to return them to their bottle while reducing the probability they could/would be acquired by adversaries or competitors in the interim.

A specialized intangible asset – competitive advantage assessment can position management teams to deliberate and act on two important points:

   1. The circumstances, priorities, and options relative to trying to (re-) establish ownership and/or (re-) obtain control and use of the, by now, economically – value hemorrhaged asset.

   2. Strategies to try to stop and/or mitigage further economic -competitive advantage hemorrhaging (of the assets), i.e., devaluation, undermining, public scrutiny and criticism, shareholder value, consumer goodwill, company reputation, etc.

Far too many companies lose, inadvertently relinquish, and/or become entangled in extraordinarily costly, time consuming, and momentum stifling legal disputes and challenges over the ownership, control, use, and value of their intangible assets and IP.  Frequent reasons are that management teams (a.) dismiss the fiduciary responsibilities of addressing the persistent and stealthy risks-threats to those assets and their value, and (b.) underestimate the role and contribution which their intangible assets make to successful and sustainable launches of new companies, ideas, and products!

I welcome your thoughts and perspectives.




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