Intellectual Property as Information

By | February 17, 2016

What do we mean when we talk about Intellectual Property (IP)? This is important. After all, how can you think strategically about an "asset" when you do not have a firm understanding of that "asset"? Quickly scan any book, article or website and you’ll find a number of definitions for IP, which range from cataloguing the various forms of IP protection (patents, trade-marks, copyright, etc.) to various characterizations of IP as property right(s) or as legal right(s). All, however, mask to varying degrees the fact that intellectual property is not strictly speaking “property”.

For the purposes of this post, I've added quotation marks to the word "asset" because when we talk about intellectual property as an "asset", it should be understood as something that is fundamentally different from asset types you may intuitively grasp already - such as equipment, inventory and other kinds of personal property, real property, buildings and other structures.

“IP has no real world physical aspect - it's a mental construct.”

IP has no real world physical aspect - it's a mental construct. The notion of IP as property is an analogical fiction (a somewhat useful one, but a fiction nonetheless.). As far as analogies go, "intellectual property as property" is useful, but quickly becomes a strained analogy as you treat IP too much like property. A too property-centric view of IP ultimately masks some its more interesting and commercially valuable characteristics.

At its core, intellectual property is information, the product of varying degrees of mental creativity. Within the context of an organization, this information includes anything that an individual knows or is capable of knowing. This is a good place to start.

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