… and quite possibly, intellectual asset (IA) professionals, he may be us.
Question: So why are so many businesses not getting better at it?
No shortage of articles lament the challenges of IAM process improvement. IA professionals routinely identify slow adoption of IAM initiatives as an asset owner problem, and they typically offer two threads of reasoning to explain the origins of the problem: 1) business owners simply don’t understand the concept of intangible assets, and/or 2) business owners are loath to budget and pay for professional IAM.
At the risk of bucking conventional wisdom, please consider that lackluster IAM adoption instead may be primarily an IAM service provider problem. I like to call it the “How-Why-What” Problem, and my dinner-party narrative on the subject goes something like the following:
A visionary, enthusiastic technology company owner, inspired by an article she read in IAM Magazine, decides to institute IAM process improvement in her organization and seeks to engage the help of professional IA service providers to do it. She dutifully gathers a summary list of questions she expects to raise during the IAM project:
- How do I patent certain products and processes our company has invented?
- How do I protect my company’s brand from competitors?
- Why would I choose to keep certain sales information secret?
- Why is this particular development process important to my business?
- What can I use to manage and track the intangible assets I identity?
- What can remind us of key dates related to asset protection formalities?
How: Legal Questions
Our business owner quickly learns addressing her “How” questions involves the practice of law, which requires the services of an attorney licensed to practice in the applicable jurisdiction. If the company does not have an in-house counsel or perhaps a Chief Intellectual Property Officer (CIPO) who is a licensed attorney and can own responsibility for tasks constituting the practice of law, then the company most likely will need to engage the services of an outside intellectual property attorney (perhaps even a registered patent attorney) to deliver on those tasks.
Why: Business Questions
Next, our business owner poses her “Why” questions, only to be cut off by the attorney, who says something like, “Those are business questions that require subject matter expertise in your field or industry. Our firm does not do that.” Our business owner should consider herself fortunate the attorney was upfront about his shortcoming. Perhaps the most common client complaint about attorneys goes as follows: “You may know the law, but you don’t understand my business!” Our business owner reluctantly agrees to engage an additional resource – a business consultant with special expertise to address her business-specific questions.
What: Tools Questions
Finally, when our once-enthusiastic business owner asks what automation she can use to record, maintain, track, and report on her intellectual assets, both her attorney and her business consultant respond, seemingly in stereo, “Sorry, we’re not tools vendors.”
At this point, even the most motivated client is likely to get discouraged and exclaim, “You mean to tell me that to institute a robust, disciplined IAM program at my company, I need to enter into a polygamous business relationship with one or more attorneys, one or more business consultants, AND one or more tools vendors? I think I’d rather take my chances with an infringement lawsuit. Sure, litigation could be more expensive, but compared to the alternative … it may be less stressful!”
IAM service providers, we must do better than that if we aspire to catalyze IAM adoption.