Research Based Startups’ Mitigating Risk To Intangible Assets

This paper is not a ruse to advocate imposing restrictions on university research…ala academic freedom and open scientific communication!  Instead, the intent of this post paper is to…

elevate familiarity – operational receptivity in university research communities regarding the importance of, and yes, fiduciary responsibility to recognize the contributory role and value of intangible asset products.

• safeguard – preserve the intellectual, structural, and relationship capital (ala intangible assets) which routinely comprise – are embedded in and serve as foundations to all intellectual property.

• respectfully advise university-based research startups (RBSU’s), corporate R&D, and their technology transfer offices, that now, and for the foreseeable future, each is obliged to…

• recognize that vulnerability to and probability of infringement and the materialization of asset compromising risks…

  • have elevated, are increasingly asymmetric, costly, and challenging to defend against,
  • and, the criticality to compromised companies’ intangible assets are generally irreparably harmful to asset value, and projected competitiveness, revenues, brand, reputation, growth potential, and sustainability, and
  • there are few viable – ready options to recoup – recover the compromised assets or their contributory role and value once compromise has occurred and becomes known.

So, through my lens as an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist…this irreversible state of global affairs, variously obligates university research leadership to acquire operational familiarity with…

  • RBSU’s intangible assets, and the
  • various risks prevalent to that sector, and the
  • various (specific) projects-transactions frequently undertaken – engaged and therefore
  • targeted by the sophisticated technologies and entities that persistently engage in infringement, misappropriation, and business intelligence collection.

Such obligations extend to mitigating and minimizing the…asymmetric elements, criticality, and inevitability that risks will materialize.

So, my counsel is, in lieu of focusing exclusively on conventional risk mitigation…techniques and strategies, RBSU communities will find it prudent to focus more of their energies and resources to ‘risk inevitabilities’ which are often…

  • circumstantially triggered, and
  • relative to whenever, wherever, and whatever intangible assets, i.e., intellectual, structural, and relationship capital are in play.

Achieving this higher level of RBSU risk mitigation starts by…

  • distinguishing specifics of research, each potential-probable work product, desired transaction outcomes, and a company’s reputation (branding initiatives)
  • in contexts of ensuring the contributory role, value, and competitive advantages are sustainable, and
  • equally important, is recognizing that each of the above are embedded with intellectual, structural, and relationship capital, ala intangible assets which are the real targets which most risk is directed.

Having served in academia for 20+ years…in teaching and research roles, and now fully engaged in the albeit niche profession as an intangible asset strategist, risk specialist, researcher, trainer, author, and founder – writer of the ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’.

With respect to my blog, I have researched – written 800+ long form blog posts...on a broad range of matters variously related to business – university-based research intangible asset issues.  My blog is periodically read in 137+ countries since its inception in 2006. I respectfully and humbly suggest therefore, I have independently developed – accumulated sufficient operationally familiarity with intangibles and university-based research to warrant reader attention span and action.

It’s important to note here, now, that conventionally applied for – issued intellectual properties…(by the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office or USPTO), i.e., patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc., which I am hard pressed to suggest ever have constituted stand-alone deterrents with much consistency…

to the growing global cadres of infringers of well deserved, hard earned, and valuable innovation.

• who are variously sophisticated and predatorial and may be state sponsored and/or independent information brokers and/or business intelligence operations, or merely legacy free players, who engage in these illegalities with the single-minded (winner-take-all) purpose of acquiring intellectual, structural, and relationship capital developed (owned) of others and usually, on behalf of others.

• but, regardless of whom, what type, or for what purpose-motive one or multiple such entities initiate-undertake these surreptitious (trade crafted) pursuits, i.e., following specific (targeted) R&D,

• most possess the technological trade crafts, instincts, and where-with-all to commence and direct ‘their stealthy research’ at specific R&D – scientific projects at their earliest stages, which not-infrequently is long before there is (extensive) public – open source knowledge of their existence and/or a patent application is filed, but, never-the-less posing a potentially lucrative interest to a private sector (corporate) client, or state sponsored government economic – competitive advantage adversary.

The desire to acquire intellectual, structural, and relationship capital that serve as the innovative foundations…for an R&D project obviously can influence its attractivity to the nefarious. In this regard, it’s essential that innovative university-based research startups and their variations, recognize few such projects go wholly unnoticed by the globally nefarious interests of those inclined to engage in infringement, misappropriation, theft, or some other aspect of asset compromise often at the behest of others as enumerated above.

Again, it is true, the more potentially lucrative – competitive – undermining a project’s deliverables can be… that project is more likely to be the subject of some level of monitoring throughout its various stages of progression, development, and/or field-clinical trials.

Then, when-if its deemed warranted…one, or multiple of the entities which have engaged in tracking-monitoring a specific or multiple similar R&D projects, will actually-commence the ‘asset compromise-acquisition’ component of their engagement and provide same to whomever the ultimate client or ‘end user’ may be.

To be sure, and, as well they should, researchers mindful of – receptive to…these frequent and very real global circumstances, which do not just adversely affect the various R&D arenas, but global trade in general, have numerous opportunities to mitigate, if not wholly thwart same. It all starts by…

• purposefully limiting awareness – knowledge, and

• putting in place minimal practices to measurably – objectively safeguard, i.e., sustain control, use, and ownership of the project’s intangible assets, i.e., the key – differentiating intellectual, structural, and intellectual capital, and

• monitor and learn reasons, should any adverse fluctuations in a projects’ outcome competitive advantage, value, market space monetization and/or attractivity.

To reiterate, these, and countless other similar situations can produce significant and troubling challenges…to the time-honored principles of academic freedom, especially if-when an institution, funding source, and/or a research team convey little or no awareness, receptivity, or are wholly dismissive of these realities, presuming instead, they are the responsibility of others. But still, many materialized risks are unforgiving and frequently irreparable.

Truth-be-told, some challenges arise when research is conducted as a global collaborative (team)…who likely have engaged in previous collaborations embedded with the assumption each can vouch for one another’s personal-scientific integrity, intellect, and professional demeanor.

However one may wish to characterize risk in university scientific research communities…to be sure risks have risen to levels (relative to institutional, corporate, and organizational R&D) that each is obliged prompt and prudent review, not indifference or dismissiveness. There are, after all, respectful strategies – practices which can be discretely employed to monitor and assess the state of high value – reputation building research projects that minimize reputation risk without disturbing the history laden – time honored principles of academic freedom.

Michael D. Moberly April 23, 2018 St. Louis [email protected] ‘The Business Intangible Asset Blog’ where one’s attention span, intangible assets, and solutions converge.

Readers are invited to examine other papers, books, and blog posts I have produced – published at

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