Monday, October 24, 2005


THE ECONOMIST RELEASES IP SURVEY - The Economist is giving special attention to intellectual property this week, noting that IP has become the most important resource for most companies, replacing land, energy and raw materials. According to the survey, as much as three-quarters of the value of publicly traded companies in America comes from intangible assets, up from around 40% in the early 1980s (copies of the survey can be purchased here).

For IT and telecom companies, the role of intellectual property has changed radically over the years. What used to be relegated to lawyers and engineers in R&D labs has been heartily embraced by the boardroom. "Intellectual-asset management" is now recognized as a strategic business issue. In America alone, technology licensing revenue accounts for an estimated $45 billion annually; worldwide, the figure is around $100 billion and growing fast.

Technology firms are seeking more patents, expanding their scope, licensing more, litigating more and overhauling their business models around intellectual property. Yet paradoxically, as some companies batten down the hatches, other firms have found ways of making money by opening up their treasure-chest of innovation and sharing it with others. The rise of open-source software is just one example. And a new breed of companies has appeared on the periphery of today's tech firms, acting as intellectual-property intermediaries and creating a market for ideas.

The survey provides many statistics that indicate that this trend is heading for an upswing, including a finding that 60% of technology and telecoms firms report an increase in licensing compared with the previous decade, and 70% report fewer obstacles to reaching such agreements.

There are also a number of excellent articles that accompany the survey, including:

A market for ideas - discussing the aforementioned upswing in IP development anlicensingng;

Patent sense - how the patent system works in the US and abroad;

The arms race - analyzing the proliferation of patents within institutional companies, noting that, in general, companies file almost two patents for every $1m they spend on R&D;

Voracious venture - using patents as business models for companies;

An open secret - the impact of patents on open source;

Thinking for themselves - Asia's embrace of IP and patents, and future plans to take on the west in patenting technology;

The liquidity of innovation - using patents as currency in today's business climate; and

An interview with Kenneth Cukier, author of the survey and technology correspondent for The Economist.

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