Intangible Assets: The ‘Tipping Point’ Has Arrived

 Michael D. Moberly   December 5, 2011

Malcom Caldwell, in his 2002 book, The Tipping Point, offers three important principles which in my view, are analogous to the current IP and intangible asset phenomena aka ‘the knowledge-based economy’. 

The Tipping Point, Caldwell says, is merely the ‘biography of an idea’.  The best way to understand the emergence and transformation of an idea, in this case, the economic fact – business reality that intangible assets and IP have replaced tangible (physical) assets as the primary source of company value, revenue, sustainability, and foundations for future wealth creation, is to think of that transformation in the context of an epidemic.  That is, ideas, products, and messages, Caldwell posits, spread in a manner comparable to a virus.

Caldwell add clarity to the ’tipping point’ by describing it as the moment when a critical mass, a threshold, a boiling point, if you will, has been reached.  Of course, I’m referring to the point when technology transfer management teams, university research administrators and prospective licensees conclude (sense, observe) the ‘tipping point’ has been reached which prompts – influences them to act. 

Given the economic fact – business reality that today, 65+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, sustainability, and ‘building blocks’ for future wealth creation lie in – are directly related to intangible assets and intellectual property (IP), why hasn’t this ‘tipping point’ been more universally recognized and become integral to university technology transfer strategy? 

Doesn’t this economic fact genuinely manifest itself as a clear and consistent sign that a ‘tipping point’ has been reached and should be fully exploited?

Respectfully, intangible assets are, for some, a nebulous concept and not particularly easy to articulate or recognize its application in technology transfer contexts, i.e., invention disclosure evaluation and licensing, etc. 

True enough, some entrepreneurs, start-ups, spin-off’s, technology transfer managers, IP counsel and prospective licensees remain unfamiliar with intangibles beyond their conventional ‘catch all’ reference to (company) goodwill. 

Too, others are unaccustomed to identifying them or recognizing how:

  • they’re embedded by-products of research and inventions
  • to assess/measure their relevance, performance, and/or contribution to an invention’s value, etc.

And still some misperceive-misinterpret intangibles as merely representing theoretical concepts best espoused in university lecture halls than in technology transfer transactions.  After all, intangibles do lack a conventional sense of physicality.

While visiting/reading my blog, you are encouraged to browse other topics/subjects (left column, below photograph) .  Should you find particular topics of interest or relevant to your circumstance,  I would welcome your inquiry at  314-440-3593 or [email protected]


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