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Top, IBM’s Frederick Boehm (left) and Gerald Rosenthal. Below, AudioFax’s team (from left): William Ragland, Jr., David Kennedy, and Mark Bloomfield. Bottom, Nike GC Jim Carter. T’s hardly a secret or a surprise that intellectual property has become a key asset for corporations. Befitting the intangible nature of this peculiar type of property, industry observers have different notions of when IP started to matter. Many private practitioners say that the critical moment was the creation of the Federal Circuit two decades ago. The appellate court helped unify patent law. Within corporations, however, the key moment varied by company and industry over the last 20 years. At IBM Corporation, in the late 1980s low-cost personal computer manufacturers were grabbing market share. Normally, IBM might have been content to enter into cross-licensing agreements, but these clone makers didn’t have IP to trade. So IBM sold them royalty-bearing licenses. Today, IBM’s royalty stream exceeds $1 billion a year. At Nike Corporation, there were multiple moments of awakening — virtually anytime a company official went overseas and saw the piles of counterfeit swoosh-emblazoned gear. Another two moments: when Nike persuaded the governments of China and Vietnam, neither known for their allegiance to brand owners, to crack down on counterfeiters. The company worked within unfamiliar systems and relied on patience, politeness, and respect — characteristics not normally rewarded in U.S. legal culture. On the following pages, we present four corporate IP success stories from our sibling publication IP Law & Business. In addition to IBM and Nike, we look at Winchester Ammunition and AudioFax, Inc. Their strategies are as different as, well, PCs and bullets. But there is perhaps one common element in these tales. The lawyers are playing against type. IBM eschews cease-and-desist letters, the blunt instrument of the trade, in favor of a more businesslike approach to protect its assets. The founder of AudioFax disliked his introduction to the U.S. legal system so much that he persuaded his lawyers to find a kinder, gentler way to make licensing deals. Winchester probably has the most aggressive brand licensing program in the quartet, and it achieved its success largely without resorting to lawyers, except as final drafters. They don’t teach this stuff in law school.

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