Editor’s Note: This is part four of a series entitled “Building an IP Aligned Enterprise: A Guide for Corporate and Technology Leaders.” We will explore the 3 stages of growth on your journey to IP alignment.

The Journey to IP Alignment: Understanding the 3 Stages of Growth

A business with a fully integrated and aligned IP strategy has in its hands a set of powerful tools to increase their overall valuation.
By monetizing their intangible assets in a number of ways, an IP aligned company is able to leverage them toward new and profitable innovations and enforce their intellectual property rights to keep their competitors at bay and ensure a strong share of the market.

While IP-intensive industries such as technology, media, pharmaceuticals, and food processing are responsible for at least 38% of the U.S. GDP (a total of $6.6 trillion in value), according to a report from the U.S. Commerce Department, “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: 2016 Update,” all businesses will find they have significant intellectual property that is necessary for them to protect.

In addition to patentable inventions – what most of us think of when we hear about intellectual property – there are other valuable assets that need protection under a strong IP strategy. Your company’s brand, your data, your customer lists and business relationships, and the proprietary knowledge and processes your employees hold are themselves intangible assets which could easily comprise over 70% of your enterprise’s value. It’s not enough, however, to merely have this intellectual property on hand. You need to protect it and align it with your broader business objectives.

As a business develops, it commonly goes through three stages of growth in terms of its IP with the goal of reaching the final stage of IP alignment. All three stages represent different levels of awareness and organization which increase and integrate as a company moves along the pipeline to IP maturity.

Stage 1: No IP Strategy

In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, businesses without an IP strategy can expect to quickly fall behind their competition. As the speed of technological development continues to quicken, multiple enterprises may be able to originate similar ideas within a short period. Companies that don’t have a working IP strategy – which includes broad IP awareness at all levels of the organization, as well as active protection of intangible assets – risk losing market share to competitors with similar innovations.

At this stage of IP alignment, many companies don’t even know they have a problem. Especially in the early stages of growing a business, it’s easy for startups to focus their energy and efforts toward the development of their products, and to lose sight of the importance of protecting their proprietary innovations. More established enterprises are also vulnerable as many are unaware of the valuable intellectual property assets they actually hold.

Often, companies will prioritize product development, but they won’t take the time to put in place or enforce processes designed to capture their proprietary innovations. Without cogent processes, we often see a concurrent lack of oversight from the company’s executive tier, and an inadequate amount of overall education and awareness company-wide around the protection of intangible assets.

No matter how well-established your company is, a deficit in IP protection and the absence of a solid strategy puts you in danger of losing revenue and market share.

Stage 2: IP Protection

Most mature technology companies fall into this category. They are aware that the key to leading their market is to retain control over their IP, and they’ve taken the appropriate steps to safeguard their business-critical assets.

An important initial key to a comprehensive IP protection strategy is the establishment of an Innovation Committee. This committee is composed of leadership from throughout the organization.   Members can include leads and management from R&D; technology and innovation experts; brand managers; and representatives from all levels of your executive hierarchy. The Innovation Committee is the body from which the tactics of a solid IP strategy will come.

While not every organization that protects its IP has an established Innovation Committee, a centralized body of the key stakeholders in the innovation process can be an invaluable asset in the planning, execution, and ongoing evaluation of your company’s IP protection strategy.

In order to protect your business’s intellectual property at this stage, an Innovation Committee will implement actionable objectives to educate and incentivize product developers and inventors, putting in place the protocols necessary for them to protect the assets they create. From there, processes will be established to capture and ultimately protect patents, trade secrets, and trademarks.

Among the most important members of your Innovation Committee are its legal experts. They will help with the crucial work of establishing and maintaining the patent and trademark processes. They will also review existing contracts for IP-related clauses and develop contract language that’s in alignment with your company’s overall IP objectives.

Finally, if your company is at this stage of growth, your Innovation Committee will foster a regular education and training curriculum to make sure everyone in the company – from executive and legal, to R&D – is aware of your enterprise’s most relevant IP strategy goals.

Stage 3: IP Alignment

When a company is IP aligned the strategic value of the enterprise’s intellectual property is fully realized by business leadership and is completely integrated into the overarching business strategy. This stage offers the highest level of asset protection. It means that you have a corporate culture that understands the pivotal importance of your intangible assets and assumes an IP-first stance.

To guide your dynamic IP strategy, you’ll conduct ongoing analysis of the broader IP landscape and whitespace to make decisions about where to position your innovations in the marketplace and identify new opportunities in untapped arenas.

In order to maintain and advance your market position, your IP aligned company will engage in ongoing monitoring of both your competitors and your collaborators to ensure no one is appropriating protected IP.

As you grow, it will be vital for your R&D teams to remain abreast of your current IP strategy and procedures, and to be vigilant in capturing their innovations using well-established, secure protocols. An IP-aligned company puts a heavy focus on education and awareness for their teams.

At the executive and legal levels, the essential, conclusive step to full IP alignment is a robust mechanism that is integrated across your innovation ecosystem whereby your company’s IP assets are regularly valued, leveraged, and, if necessary, enforced.


When your IP strategy is seamlessly incorporated into the daily workings of your company at every level, you’ve achieved IP alignment. At this stage, not only does your business plan reflect an IP-forward posture, but you’ve built that attitude into the processes and protocols executed by teams throughout your company.

This stage of growth, where you’ve laid the infrastructure for a dynamic, comprehensive, and evolving IP alignment strategy, will allow your company the power and flexibility to hold and increase market share with a secured arsenal of innovative intangible assets. Achieving IP alignment will sustainably bolster your bottom line, raise your market value, and strengthen your market position for the long term.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Thomas DeFelice


This article is for informational purposes, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and may be considered advertising under applicable state laws. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and are not necessarily shared by Dilworth IP, its other attorneys, agents, or staff, or its clients.