IP Strategy 101

There are hundreds of books written about IP strategies. So, what is it exactly that you need to understand about this? It's simple! You want an IP portfolio that protects your existing and future profits cost-effectively.

Freedom to operate

To make a profit, you need to know whether you have the freedom to operate. Finding this out is arguably the least appealing part of IP management. But you don't want to skip this. You need to know what patents are out there. Imagine that you have developed a new product. You have put in a lot of effort to do it. But then you can't sell that to the desired markets because you don’t have the freedom to operate. Isn't it just devastating for your business? In some industries, you may get lucky. In others, it would be like crossing a minefield with your eyes closed.

Follow the money

IP, and especially patents, typically protect products. Ultimately, you want patents on your cash cows in the markets where you make the most revenues. IP management should, therefore, provide a link between profits and patents. Are your darlings protected well enough in the relevant markets? Goal achieved.

In addition to product protection, IP can block competitors, may be needed to get subsidies and tax breaks, or maybe a source of income through licensing. This “off-label usage” of patents is often the hardest to document. A system should be put in place where the reasons for patents are tracked. Dropping a patent used to block a viable alternative to your products won’t go unnoticed.

Aligning your IP strategy with your business strategy is crucial for a cost-effective portfolio that protects your revenues.

Pruning and cost control

Patents that do not (positively) contribute to the bottom line should be pruned from your portfolio. Some lead-time may be required for products to establish themselves. However, the situation is typically clear five years after the product launch. If more time is needed, product management must demonstrate the reasons why.


The purposes of any patent must be explicit for your organization. Why? They will cost a lot of money (rule of thumb: €15’000 per country for the first ten years). But when done right, these investments will keep competitors at bay and the revenues rolling in.