So far so good. But the article then goes on to describe how TomTom is contemplating a third prong to its patent strategy, which will enable it to “monetize” patents. The article explains:
“Now that TomTom has successfully safeguarded its position in the market, attention is focusing on how the company can turn its intellectual property into a meaningful revenue generator and transactional tool. ‘This is something you can only do once you become a mature company’, states Spour.’ I have started to prompt those discussions with the board, as it one of the ways in which we can grow. I don’t view IP as any different from money. The advantage in IP is that you can replicate it, but money doesn’t replicate very easily.’The sense of these comments is that a robust and complete patent strategy by a successful and mature company requires that its patents need to be monetized—“I don’t view IP as any different from money”. Patent monetization seems to be viewed as an axiomatic element of a successful patent strategy. Certainly, after nearly two decades of being told that patents are an asset class waiting to be commercially exploited, it is understandable whence this view derives. But such an approach seems too narrow, where the challenge is how to quantify the contribution made by a successful patent portfolio to a company’s competitive position and bottom line. In this sense, “monetizing” patents is an ongoing process of assuring that the company’s R&D continues to be patent-protected and that the company has an adequate patent portfolio to fend off third party legal attack. For many companies, these activities are a full time IP occupation.
One of the most obvious ways to monetize these assets would be to begin using them assertively; but this would mark a drastic shift from the exclusively defensive strategy which TomTom has espoused to date. However, Spours admits that without such a change in approach, efforts at commercialization may well be doomed to failure. ‘If we start licensing, we will have to change our strategy to at least a partially assertive one,” he says. ‘We have never been patent assertive before, but that is not because we don’t have a strong portfolio.’
here, and its world-beating licensing program are the exception and not the role. Consider the report this week that Intellectual Ventures will be laying off 20% of its staff, here. However this move is explained, it points to the uncertain nature of relying on licensing and the like as a business model. The upshot is that whether patent monetization as part of one’s business strategy is not for everyone. Depending upon the circumstances, a successful patent strategy may, or may not, contain a licensing component itself driven by engaging in patent assertion activities.