They say that the inventor of the hay bailing machine made a bundle. But can you make a bundle from using bundles of IP? Do Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) bundles help you build a successful business?
What is an IPR bundle? Consider an inventor who patents a mechanism. To turn the mechanism into a sellable product, the inventor creates a shell to house the mechanism. This shell can be protected via a design right. Before going to market the firm will create a product/brand name protected via a trade mark. In this case, the use of the patent, design right and trade mark (multiple types of IPR) to protect a product is what we call an IPR bundle. There's a risk that analysis considering IPRs one by one misses part of the bigger picture.
Looking for IPR bundles has sometimes felt like seeking extraterrestrials or the Loch Ness monster, sometimes spotted but never proven or explained to the point of understanding. The IPO has taken steps to rectify this through an exploratory report entitled 'Understanding the collective bundles of intellectual property rights by firms'.
The aim of this exploratory research is to create a methodology - and dataset - for analysing IPR bundles and describing what happens to them. This report shows that the ownership of different types of IPRs (normally a patent and a trade mark) as a proxy for a Bundle is an inaccurate measure. Use of such a measure can lead to over interpretation of results. This is important as this measure has been commonly used.
Complicating the picture are unregistered IP rights, which cover most of UK design, and licenses. Initial results from an IPO-sponsored survey of licenses shows that at least as many firms use patents through licensing as own them (more on this in September).
The use of simple proxies is understandable as ownership of registered IPRs has become an academic industry over the last 20 years. This report shows that analysing IPR Bundles is no easy feat. The most successful method tried was a product level analysis. This considered a given product and identified the various IPRs used to protect it. The evidence suggested that businesses do not necessarily bundle their IPRs.
What is your experience and do you have examples of when it might have been more advantageous for the IPRs to have been bundled? Is this actually worth exploring further? We'd welcome your views and comments.
If you have questions or feedback, do comment on this blogpost and we’ll do our best to respond.