Several weeks ago, I found myself on a call with a client. She had called with an urgent concern – she didn’t know how to explain what intellectual property (IP) rights were. This Operations Executive had been tasked with supervising a large content management initiative that involved overseeing the IP rights of her company’s content and brands.
One of this executive’s goals was to align her business team and other executive stakeholders to take action on managing the company’s IP. In a key touchpoint meeting, she pored through a deck containing bullet points on “Taking Charge of Intellectual Property Rights.” When she probed her team on how they could handle this aspect of their business, to her surprise she was met with silence. Quickly she had a realization. Her team didn’t know what she was talking about. Hours later I got a call…
Why Every Organization Needs to Educate Their Teams About IP Rights
On at least a foundational level, most organizations know that intellectual property rights are essential to their business. The United States IP market, which includes patents, copyrights, and trademarks, is worth a staggering 6.6 trillion dollars according to the Global Innovation Policy Center. Yet despite this, when it comes time to discuss how to manage and leverage IP, many organizations find themselves scratching their heads like the executive and her team.
While you don’t need to be an expert in IP, every team that handles content, brands or patents should know some core IP concepts. Thankfully, by familiarizing yourself with seven key concepts, you can begin to converse effectively around IP rights and start making informed strategic decisions that can shape your business’s future.
Concept #1 - Rights Management
Rights management focuses on how to keep track of the information concerning any piece of intellectual property. On some level, every business that deals with rights to any extent does this. For some businesses that take what we call an “ad hoc” approach, this process consists of referring back to contracts in question every time a rights issue arises. On the other end of the spectrum, other businesses invest in and operate highly sophisticated systems which largely automate everything from how rights are recorded, extracted, governed, and used.
Concept #2 - Contract Management
As its name suggests, rights contract management zeroes in on the contracts that sit at the center of any rights process. These contracts define almost every aspect of someone’s right to use our intellectual property (or vice versa). So, managing how contracts are authored, entered into our systems, tracked, updated or revised, and reported is critically important.
Like with overall rights management, approaches to contract management can run the gamut, from the most basic approach of keeping archived contracts in standalone systems (read: file cabinets), to integrating them into the same sophisticated system from above that records, tracks, and manages rights management all in one place.
Concept #3 - IP Management
IP management might seem like a simple idea—tracking information about the intellectual property these various rights pertain to—but in reality, it’s a subtle art. You want to be able to properly classify and describe the IP in question so you can not only categorize it on your own end but make it discoverable to others seeking to use it.
A song, movie, book, or idea might seem like a fairly straightforward item to classify. But when we take into account the vast array of considerations, such as language, length, genre, etc., things can get hairy pretty quickly. A system that accurately, succinctly, and practically describes IP in question makes every other part of your approach to managing rights that much more effective and streamlined.
Concept #4 - Partner Information Management
No man is island; and neither is IP. Virtually every piece of intellectual property out there was created by more than one right-owner. These other individuals, groups or businesses have an inherent interest in how the rights to their property are managed and used, which means they, too, need to be part of the tracking and reporting process.
Like with some of the other categories above, businesses take many different approaches, ranging from manually checking contracts to see which partners are involved in a given set of rights to highly automated and integrated systems that weave partner consideration into the larger framework.
Concept #5 - Clearance Management
“Clearance” might make you think bottom-of-the-bin sales. But in the world of rights it refers to the process that makes sure the right to use a given piece of IP was properly respected and the terms of that usage complied with. In other words, without an effective clearance process the rest of the system becomes moot.
Concept #6 - Rights Related Finance & Accounting
While rights geeks might love delving into the ins and outs of all these issues, even the most dedicated among us recognizes the bigger aim is about driving business growth. And to do that we have to make sure that money is flowing in the right direction and in the right amounts.
But when dozens (sometimes hundreds) of factors are at play, rights related financing and accounting take on a life of their own. We have to think about how we record and track revenue, as well as cost, related to the property in question. Royalties (both what we pay to others, and others pay to us) have to be factored in, as do invoicing, payment, and financial reporting.
Concept #7 - Reporting & Business Intelligence
No business today can operate without rich, reliable, and accurate data. The good news is that all the various processes and functions above produce a veritable trove of business information, from which you can derive the kind of intelligence that can guide long-term strategy and inform daily decision making
As with all the categories we discuss here, you can take the most elemental approach of spot-analyzing data as the need arises or the kind of integrated, adaptive, system-level approach that treats data as not just a precious business mineral to be mined but the organic product of a large, complex network.
How Can I Learn More About Rights?
If you’re interested in learning more, KlarisIP has two rich resources to help you on your IP Rights journey. These are: