Defensive use of publications in an intellectual property strategy
- Bill Barrett
- Nature Biotechnology
E very biotechnology company begins as an idea. With an investment of time and money—and not a little luck—the successful entrepreneur can develop and execute a strategy for generating revenue from that idea. Inevitably, entrepreneurs must focus their time and attention on obtaining investment capital and building a profitable business model. Viewed alongside these primary objectives, the long-term, strategic importance of intellectual property (IP) can fade into the background. (In this article we use the term “intellectual property” in a narrow sense, to refer to intangible property that relates to inventions, such as patents and trade secrets.) For a biotechnology company, however, a strong IP portfolio is a determinant of success: IP supports future revenue streams and erects barriers to competition, and its quality is intimately tied up with the company’s perceived value to investors, partners, and acquirers. However, building an IP portfolio can be a large expense for a young company operating on limited investment capital. Because of the crucial role of IP in a company’s potential value, companies need to ensure that their investment in IP will yield a strategically targeted IP portfolio. Common reasons why companies fail in this endeavor include: • Lack of an IP strategy based on sound competitive IP intelligence; • Lack of alignment between IP expenditures and the business strategy; • Lack of institutional knowledge of IP concepts and tactics; • Lack of internal processes for extracting, evaluating, and capitalizing on IP. To solve these problems, we find it helpful to think of a company’s IP processes in terms of a “value chain.” In general, a value chain is a series of steps in which each new step adds incremental value to the one before. The IP value chain starts with the inventor’s original idea and has value added by a series of steps that ultimately yields a legally protected asset (e.g., a patent or a trade secret).