For years, Intellectual Ventures has been talking to CEOs, CFOs, and CTOs about the value of intellectual property. Contrary to what some others might suggest, we believe the issue being discussed in America’s boardrooms—in companies of all sizes and across industries—is not whether patents matter, but how they matter.
In our Market Research on Patent Attitudes study, the majority of the C-suite executives we surveyed believe patents are good for innovation; they believe patent rights should be respected; they believe people should pay a license fee to use technology that is patented. Yet, they don’t fully recognize how patents apply to them.
And who can blame them? The headlines about the intellectual property industry are dominated by consumer technology company patent rankings or stories about billion dollar patent transactions. Counter to the current narrative, those storylines don’t apply to the majority of American businesses who are just focused on getting through the next quarter or funding round.
So while the study demonstrated to us that the C-suite values patents in general, they do not distinguish how patents’ value is relevant to their business in the specific. These executives rank product development and competitive edge highly in their 2013 business priorities, but the C-suite does not have the information or expertise to leverage patents within their business strategy.
When asked, 75% of these executives say they are the primary decision makers regarding patents, yet only 24% consider themselves very informed on the topic. Less than half the executives we surveyed had heard of patent licensing companies (which were described in the blind survey as “a company that purchases patents and licenses them to companies who have existing products in the market”). Even fewer had heard of IP intermediaries (described in the blind survey as a “company that navigates/facilitates patent transactions within the IP market”). An average of 6.5% of the C-suite reported direct experience working with the IP industry in the past three years.
I know Intellectual Ventures operates in a nascent intellectual property industry, and these findings demonstrate to me yet again how much room there is for our company and our industry to improve and grow with the C-suite. I would ask my fellow business leaders reading this blog to share their own feedback via email to AskIV or to extend the conversation online to @IVinvents with #patentsmatter for all of us to see.
How do patents matter to your business?