What these 6 businesses did right about Intellectual Property (Part 2)

This is a guest post by Esther Wee.

Find out what three other businesses did right about IP in Part 1.

4. NASA — Licensing of patented technologies to Start Ups.

The whole idea of the patent system is aimed at encouraging innovation, and NASA understands this very well.

Last year, NASA opened up an array of their patented technology to be licensed out on a non-exclusive basis to start ups with the aim of encouraging the growth of high-tech businesses and advancing American innovation.

David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist, said — “The Startup NASA initiative leverages the results of our cutting-edge research and development so entrepreneurs can take that research — and some risks — to create new products and new services.”

This initiative is good because it addresses two common problems start-ups face — raising capital and securing intellectual property rights. A non-exclusive license also allows NASA to license the same technology to other companies. This would create healthy competition, which is needed for innovation to happen at a faster rate. Besides, licensing their technologies also gives NASA the chance to invest and play a part in growing start up businesses by putting their patented technology to good use while earning NASA an additional stream of income through royalties.

An idea for our local research and development institutes to think about? Definitely! With the growing start-up community and businesses in the ASEAN region, it would be great to see more collaboration efforts made between universities, government and private linked R&D companies and start ups in growing the industry and encouraging more innovation in this region.

Read more about the Startup NASA initiative here.

5. KODAK — Almost bankrupt, but IP saved the day.

In 2013, KODAK, one of the well known brands in the film photography industry crawled its way out of bankruptcy by mining through its extensive IP portfolio to develop new technologies.

During its bankruptcy process, the company identified a significant portion of its IP assets that were valuable and could be sold to raise cash for the company. It is reported that KODAK ultimately raised $525 million through the disposal of 1,100 patents to a consortium led by Intellectual Ventures and RPX that included Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung. With the leftover 7,000 other patents in its portfolio, it moved on to strategize on building new technologies out of the existing ones and started to explore other licensing opportunities available to others to generate income.

As a result, KODAK announced a profit in the first quarter since its bankruptcy and emphasised the important role played by IP licensing royalties in driving its revenue growth.

Now that really is a success story of how IP helped a giant company survive through its lowest season and even bounce back out of bankruptcy.

6. Royal Selangor — Pewter like never before.

To give another local example, we take a look at what our famous Malaysian pewter company did with IP that helped them gain popularity again in their pewter products.

Founded in 1885 by Yong Koon, his little shop use to sell handcrafted pewter for ceremonial use. From a humble family run business, today it has become one of the world’s renowned pewter brands which can be found in international stores like Harrods, John Lewis, and David Jones.

One of the famous sayings in business is that in order to stay in the game, you need to diversify with time. And that was exactly what Yong Yoon Li, the fourth generation executive director of Royal Selangor International did, and he diversified using IP.

Yong shared how the company took the opportunity to expand its range of pewter products from its usual tableware and gift items to collaborating with famous brands in producing customised design pewter products. One of their notable collaborations was creating customised designed Star Wars characters made of pewter. It was a total hit with the avid fans who bought them to keep as collectors’ items, especially during the hype of the movie release.

Now, the collaboration could only be successful with IP in place for both parties. Yong sought the opportunity to license the Star Wars brand and characters to diversify its product and eventually attained the company a new target market. With this licensing opportunity, the company was able to also ride on the popularity of an already established brand and even leveraging on the brand’s marketing efforts. Who says you need to own it all to reap it all. The beauty of the IP regime is that it facilitates effective collaboration resulting in fair use of each other’s IP rights and a win-win situation for both parties.

All in all, Intellectual Property rights are definitely a worthy investment. When used strategically and rightly, it can help the business grow and even possibly bail your business out of bankruptcy on a worst case scenario.

Have you got your IP in place yet? If you have not, it is a good time to start today.

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