Been a while-time to come out of Winter hibernation
I can get out of many good habits during the British winter, and this has been a particularly rotten one, so I’ve got out of the blogging habit. With temperatures hitting a heady 11° C in London today it seemed like a good time to get back in the habit.
But at least my own hibernation is only seasonal. Take IP by comparison and when I connect on LinkedIn to the smiling Irv Rappaport (http://www.ipcheckups.com/company-overview/management/) and he tells me that he’s been evangelizing IP for 50 years and it feels like I could hibernate for another 20 years and I may just wake up and find that nothing IP has changed and IP might still be frozen out of mainstream thinking.
But there’s nothing like a smiling Rappaport (or better two) to cheer me up out of that negative thought. Irv tells me that his equally smiley son, Matt, and he are the only father and son combination in the IAM300. That’s something to celebrate don’t you think. Matt thinks so: http://www.ipcheckups.com/company-overview/management/
Who was it that wrote “nothing dies as hard as a bad idea”. I think it was Yates in one of his follow-ups to the brilliant Revolutionary Road. There is a gloomy scenario where all of this bright IP thinking turns out to be just smoke and mirrors and never, in our lifetimes, reaches mainstream. Where only a few trolls and troll advisers and patent fundamentalists ever make a difference (or any serious money). How frustrating would that be?
As I’m a natural optimist, I prefer to think of the IP community as Outliers, as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name. Gladwell describes Joe Flom, a founding partner of Skadden Arps, as an outlier, someone who practices 10,000 hours at his out of vogue litigation/hostile takeover practice area, before that market explodes in the 1980s and he becomes one of the go to lawyers.
Gladwell’s theory is tested on The Beatles, Bill Gates, Fleetwood Mac and a whole host of others who appeared to come from nowhere when they went viral (or whatever the pre-Internet equivalent to viral was) but had actually been steadily practicing and just hanging in there and not giving up for many years.
As a positivist therefore, there are for certain some signs of the pure IP strategy market maturing outside of the landmark Nortel and AOL stories. Here are a few:
- A very good pull out in the UK Times in March called Raconteur IP, the online version of which is here. Thanks to Joanna Goodwin for including a quote from YT in the editorial.
“IP strategist Andrew Watson believes the way forward is to educate UK businesses to view IP as a strategic priority. “Innovation is in our DNA, but we need to develop the skills to know what to do with it,” he says, adding that other countries, notably China, have a national IP strategy.
Well said Sir! And I do think he’s right. One our most fundamental problems is to educate our market. And no, they don’t know or won’t admit that they need it or could even describe what they need. Dear me!
- The new UK Patent Box regime. As far as triggers to take IP seriously are concerned, this one is actually pretty effective. There is a transitional introduction of the relief, but to be able to talk to a CEO, CSO, CFO or someone else towards the top of an organization and show him/her a way of possibly taking 12% straight to the bottom line is quite powerful. Add to that a factor we hadn’t anticipated, that analysts of listed companies would start to ask the companies to explain their progress and projected savings via Patent Box and that’s a real bonus.
- Our projects and pipeline. A usual no names, as all of our projects are confidential, but we are in the midst of a couple of really super engagements. Really challenging on all levels. And we’ve a strong pipeline of high-octane companies to whom we are talking and taking through a sales cycle.
- Acquisitions and major collaborations. We’ve got a major tie-up (not yet announced), Ovidian (Joe Siino’s apparently excellent practice) has one and there are some interesting rumours of another shortly to be announced involving another of the good IP strategy houses. A sign?
- Open-mindedness. I’m sure that Irv has seen the same responses in his 50 years, but it can become tiring to have to go back to basics with some of the most apparently sophisticated people (one CEO of a client even struggled to understand the difference between a patent and a trademark) but the difference now it seems is that CEO’s/investors/funds/CSO’s etc realize that they haven’t got all of the answers, or even know which are all of the right questions to ask. There is something clearly missing in most company analysis using the traditional metrics and measures. Hence, open-mindedness. Even if one fund manager in London told us that we were explaining, in our words, what he called his “fluffy bunnies” theories. I liked that. A lot. I could write a book (in fact I might just do that).
When I first started IP beating the streets, 41 years after Irv (a little unfair to compare, I’d have to have started my evangelizing in the womb to catch him up) a good friend gave me this and I’ve kept it close to me ever since. It’s a quote from Maurice Maeterlinck, the Belgian philosopher, and it goes like this:
“At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand mediocre minds appointed to guard the past..”.
Signs, look out for signs of progress. Don’t look down or back, keep your eyes on the far horizon. And, in my view, don’t’ call any of them a Tipping Point.
Ta da! Nice to be posting again.