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Blackburn O’Shaughnessy Coleman Nowledge may be power. But for many companies, the issue is not what they know, but how they use it. Take IBM. During the 1980s, after a punishing, 13-year antitrust battle with the U.S. government, the Armonk, New York-based behemoth turned gun-shy and stopped paying attention to its intellectual property treasure. It didn’t do much in the way of licensing and lost out on millions in revenuenot to mention buzz. During the 1990s, however, the company got its groove back. Last year IBM received 3,454 new U.S. patents. But that’s not the important number. The company also pulled in more than $1.5 billion in licensing. Other companies perhaps pay too much attention to IP, believing that a patent is a no-risk lottery ticket to fortuneand don’t focus on their core business. We talked to two in-house lawyers and one chief executive to examine diverse approaches to corporate IP. All three are trying to walk the line between caring too much and caring not enough about their business’s IP holdings. With business these days increasingly taking the form of temporary joint ventures based on shared technology and cross-licensing, the way a company manages its IP trove is of increasing importance. Chiron Corporation is a biotech concern that many competitorsoften on the other side of a patent proceedingsay cares too much. The company aggressively licenses and collects royalties on diagnostic tests and other procedures; last year it brought in nearly $200 millionor almost 18 percent of its gross revenuefrom this area. Chief patent counsel Robert Blackburn has the full support of management as he wages this high-stakes, high-tech war against its rivals. James O’Shaughnessy doesn’t have it quite so easy. As chief IP counsel for retooled manufacturer Rockwell Automation, Inc., O’Shaughnessy’s job is to discover hidden IP gems and extract value. But, he says, making this happen can be a long process of convincing old-line executives and engineers that those efforts are worthwhile. Finally, inventor John Coleman is a soloist with a powerful backup band. Coleman loves to tinker and invent. His companies, Plasma Physics Corp. and Solar Physics Corp., don’t make things; they license them. Coleman’s too busy inventing to negotiate licenses involving his semiconductors and flat-screen monitors. So he turns to the New York law firm of Fish & Neave to do it for him. All three may not always win, but they have figured out how to use what they know.

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