Intangible Asset Strategist Corporate – University Research

Michael D. Moberly    March 31, 2014   ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’.

It’s all about sustaining control, use, ownership and monitoring the value, materiality, and risks to intangible assets, particularly intellectual and structural capital.  And, when 80+% of most research evolves from intangible assets, i.e., intellectual and structural capital in particular, having an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist available can make the difference between exasperating ‘minimalization’ and  exuberance!

Having served in academia for 20+ years myself, it’s certainly no secret that one distinguishing factor related to university-based (faculty) researchers (inventors) is that they generally have the opportunity to pursue – engage in research that reflects their academic interests which they have dedicated themselves. This generally involves multiple years of rigorously testing hypotheses which occasionally culminates in a patentable and/or licensable product with future commercialization potential.

Achieving this level of academic excellence, i.e., patentability is seldom a standalone activity. Instead, it entails developing and maintaining positive collaborative – working relationships between faculty researchers and TTO director and staff, both of which are essential components to achieving satisfying and optimistically lucrative (scientific) outcomes for all parties.  So, faculty researcher (inventor) relationships with their universities’ Technology Transfer Office (TTO) can often be complicated and even contentious, but need not be so!

Competing in the global R&D environment…

Those familiar with R&D processes and what’s necessary to successfully move a scientific project along the continuum to reach patentability stage and perhaps commercialization in its market space recognize that most all R&D, be it university or private sector based, are competing in an increasingly intertwined, aggressive, and often times predatorial marketplace where boundaries have become blurred between domestic and international business allegiances, prompting, in many respects, well warranted risks and cautions which produce more challenges for institutions and investors insofar as distinguishing – assessing the most promising (patentability, commercialization) strategies within a particular field.

More specifically, and to be purposefully redundant, a fundamental concept that warrants more recognition by faculty researchers and university TTO managers alike, is that the broader research and development environment has truly become globalized, which in my niche of the world translates as being increasingly competitive, aggressive, predatorial, and often culminates in winner-take-all outcomes. Necessarily, the competition for researcher intellectual and structural capital competencies is quite intense, sometimes bordering on the fanatical.

Unfamiliarity, naiveté, or acting dismissively of the environment I have characterized here will (can) contribute to – exacerbate the growing array of problems and challenges insofar as securing and retaining strong defensive – offensive grounding in intellectual property, patents particularly. If, for example, a faculty researcher/inventor has the good fortune, skill, and necessary long term funding to develop a compound or device that ultimately can be readily circumvented and/or counterfeited.  Herein lies unfortunately, an all too frequent problem in which one’s work ends up being exploited, not by its rightful owner, rather by predatorialy motivated economic and competitive advantage adversaries globally.

Needless to say, when such risks are dismissed or worse in my view, a feigning of unawareness or adopting a position which suggests it’s not their responsibility to elevate (risk) awareness within their respective (institutional) research community it’s disconcerting and demoralizing to faculty researchers – inventors.   More so when they learn their work/research product will face challenges, legal and otherwise, which an institution may opt to not engage because the challenge is difficult, time consuming and very costly to effectively enforce or ‘win’.  When such circumstances arise, as well as many others, one can be assured it will render a projects’ attractiveness to prospective licensees, investors, and/or commercialization opportunities to be less than might what otherwise be expected, in other words significantly minimized.

Strategic solution paths…

A universities’ technology transfer office is and should be the starting point for faculty researchers – inventors to disclose, or fully unravel, their invention and acquire the most current strategic counsel to ensure the most promising and worthy research, i.e., technologies are guided to their natural and hopefully lucrative and beneficial conclusions.  A not infrequent personal – professional reality is that at some point during a projects’ disclosure, unraveling, and technology transfer process is the discouraging reality that that not all discoveries warrant patentability and commercialization.

A complicating factor, one which university technology transfer managers know all too well, is that a technology transfer process can take months, and in some instances years – to fully evolve and arrive at a point of final (university) recommendation or decision.  For example, the issuance of a patent or consummation of a licensing agreement, are events which involve mergers’ of expertise, good fortune, good timing, and investor/funder interest.

But, it is not my intent to place the onus solely on TTO managers, rather, faculty researchers – inventors seeking a potential (public) break through or ‘turning point’ moment for their specific research, often times they are already acutely aware of the global competitiveness and predatorial nature associated with R&D environments in general.  In other words, a faculty researcher will always find it in their interest to consistently engage in best practices insofar as effectively managing and safeguarding their research.

A university’s technology transfer office is typically where the expertise lies to convert inventions into commercially viable products if and when feasible.  Faculty researchers and/or inventors need experienced and industry sector expertise to aid them in navigating, assessing, and offering recommendations on strategies that hopefully lead to patentability and/or commercialization which can come from intangible asset strategists and risk specialists.

Reader comments and inquires are always welcome at 314-440-3593 (St. Louis) or [email protected]



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