A strategic intellectual property policy is a coordinated approach to the identification, creation and enforcement of intellectual property (IP). Consideration is sometimes not given to why IP should be protected or enforced from the perspective of what the company expects to derive from the IP. This can result in a ballooning IP budget with frightfully little to show for it when needless patent applications are filed or litigation is pursued for IP rights that are not aligned with the business interests of the company.

Companies that derive the most from their IP budget actively manage the entire process of identifying, protecting, and monetizing the IP, keeping in mind the strategic goals of the company and focusing efforts and funds on the IP resources that will help the company achieve those goals. This is especially necessary for bioscience companies, where lengthy development periods can generate much IP with little immediate returns.

The strategic planning for a bioscience company is frequently housed within the business plan, strategic statement, five-year plan, or other source for strategic thinking and direction. The best source for the company’s strategic thinking, of course, is direct communication between management and those responsible for the IP. Communication is at the heart of the process, and those responsible for the IP must be keenly aware of the strategic vision of those responsible for leading the business. Changes in strategic direction can be frequent, especially given the rapid pace of bioscience technology developments, and such changes must be communicated to the IP personnel so that IP decisions accurately reflect current management thinking.

The IP of the business should be routinely measured, compared and tested against the strategic goals of the company. Deciding and prioritizing between various alternatives and possibilities can mean the difference between success and failure. By treating IP as a flexible asset that can be manipulated to more properly fit the strategic objectives of the business, a significant tool can be used to advance the business and in some cases to create an intellectual property road blocks for the company’s competitors.

A SWOT analysis is a common management tool in which the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats—SWOT—of a business or project are identified and examined. The technique can be applied to IP with the business strategy set as the backdrop. That is, strengths are measured in relation to the strategic goals of the company, and weaknesses are measured the same way. Opportunities presented by the IP and threats to the IP are measured only insofar as they relate to the strategic focus of the company. In other words, a licensing opportunity outside the goals of the company is less valuable than one that advances the company’s long-term objectives. The fact that such outside opportunities might have significant revenue generating possibilities can be reviewed elsewhere, but for purposes of testing the strategic value and sufficiency of the IP, the strategic goals of the company are the key yardstick.

While some might argue the case for stockpiling IP no matter its current value in case the bioscience company has a later need, this can result in a squandering of resources that can be better deployed elsewhere by almost any business, large or small. Almost every business needs to make financial choices as to which IP will be pursued, or pursued aggressively with litigation and the like, and which IP will not. The careful alignment of such pursuits with the strategic objectives of the business will insure that the IP assets of a bioscience business are deployed to maximum benefit.