IP Strategy - Sounds impressive but what does it actually mean?

33 Strategy

IP Strategy is a term that these days is frequently broadcast by the IP profession on websites and during seminars, but it’s not always clearly defined as a concept or well explained in practical terms. In this short article I’ll briefly discuss what the term ‘IP Strategy’ means to us at ip21 and hopefully be able to shed some light on how IP Strategy formulation is a valuable exercise for businesses.

There is no universally accepted industry definition of IP Strategy as such, but I personally like the definition offered by Ralph Eckardt, an IP Strategy Consultant and Author: “IP Strategy is the development of a course of actions that utilizes intellectual property to enable a company to sustainably realize competitive advantage.”

I like it because it uses language such as ‘actions,’ ‘utilizes’ and ‘enable’ to promote a pro-active approach to IP management. It also aligns IP entirely with commercial direction and proposes that if an IP asset cannot be utilized to sustainably achieve a corporate objective then it should not be invested in; an important point for companies to consider in order to invest their budget optimally.

In order to develop an effective IP Strategy a process of research, analysis and planning is required which carefully considers the various drivers that influence commercial IP decisions. For example:

Legal Rights

  • Patents, Trademarks, Designs, Copyright, Licensing, Confidential Information etc.


  • Existing Tech, Patent Landscaping, Funding availability, Collaborations etc.


  • Customers' Tastes and Preferences, Sales, Distribution, Social Trends etc.


  • Competitor Activity, Barriers to Entry, Opportunities, Threats etc.


  • Budgeting, Tax Planning, Corporate Financing, IP Valuation, Disposal etc.


  • Legislation, Compliance, Culture, World Affairs (Brexit? Trump?) etc.

Company size and evolution are also important with early stage companies often prioritising cost-reduction and core-business asset protection. Established companies may be more focussed on portfolio management, access to new markets and developing technology, whereas large companies are more likely to include considerations for patent landscaping, competitor analysis, compliance, valuation and global IP watching.

These are some of the factors that may be relevant when planning an IP Strategy, although many IP firms will only consider the Legal factors when advising their clients. IP Strategy is a bespoke exercise that is different for every single organisation and a consultative, commercial approach is essential to ensure that IP investment is optimised to add value throughout the business.

For any aspect of Intellectual Property advice and overall strategy, please get in touch with the ip21 team.

Richard Jones, Business Relationship Manager for ip21 Ltd.