The number one goal of intellectual property is to transform it into money-making products and services. Every day you wait to do something with your IP, it costs you money – in legal fees, lost opportunities or unrealized income. But if you don’t map out a strategy and plan of how to get there, your odds of succeeding are low.
The most important thing you can do with your intellectual property is take action. If you don’t do something with it, nothing will happen. Think of it this way: when you create intellectual property, you enter the innovation business. Innovation is what drives new products and services. But if you don’t act, nothing gets done. Your IP will drift away to someone more motivated to take action with it.
The first step in the licensing process is developing a strategy and a plan of action. Your strategy is what you want to do and your plan is how you will do it.
Just like a business or marketing strategy, your licensing strategy and plan defines the who, what, where, when, how and why. Trying to license your IP without a plan of action is like steering a boat without any navigational charts. You start in one direction, don’t get anywhere, then suddenly change course, but never get to where you want to go.
I meet many inventors who have tried to start a business around their IP, wind up running out of money, then fall back to the licensing route. In one case, the inventor created a new zipper technology and spent all his money on patents and developing prototypes. Then he tried licensing it to companies he thought would be interested in using it on their products. But he wasn’t successful because all he was doing was throwing his IP against the “licensing wall” hoping something would stick. He spent years doing the same thing over and over only to wind up back where he started – a great IP with no money and resources to get it into the market.
Your strategy details your licensing options – the different ways you can license your IP. For example, non-exclusively to many partners, by territory, distribution channel and different uses of it. The licensing plan details the steps you’ll take to move from point A to B. For example, you may decide as a strategy to license your new toy invention in the US to a one of the larger toy companies. Your plan then identifies which companies are best suited, and what steps you will take to license it to one of them.
The licensing plan focuses on the two main activities necessary to create a licensing deal:finding a company interested in your IP and convincing them of the commercial value a license will give to them. The goal of your licensing program is to create licensing transactions. This is accomplished by reaching the right licensing marketplace and creating a buzz – requests for information, email and phone dialog and licensing offers. The key is to communicate often and reach the IP buyers in the right forum.
Your licensing plan starts with research to figure out which companies are best qualified to produce, market and sell your product or service. It’s important to find a reputable company with the right resources. Research sources include manufacturing associations, trade journals and various industry databases.
Reaching your target licensees is the next part of your licensing plan. This part details all the different actions and activities to connect with potential licensing partners. One of best activities is attending trade shows for in-person meetings. It’s one of the fastest ways of connecting with potential licensees.
Other action steps include using social media sites such as Linked-in and Facebook, creating a website to showcase your IP, using steaming media sites such as YouTube to demonstrate your IP, and providing relevant information such as case studies, research, articles and customer testimonials.
Creating a licensing plan doesn’t mean weeks of work. One trick I use is starting with an outline of the key strategy and plan parts – how the rights will be divided, an initial list of potential licensing partners, a schedule of industry events and trade shows, and ideas on the best ways to give information about the IP. Some of the best tools to start with are a short power-point presentation and a one-sheet summary of the licensing opportunity.
The best way to succeed is figuring out how you’ll get there. This requires creating a licensing strategy and plan that maps out your course of action. Success in licensing requires focused and consistent activity, otherwise you’ll wind up drifting around. Remember, it’s not how good your IP is…it’s how good is your ACTION with your IP.
Rand Brenner is an IP professional whose passion is helping inventors, startups, and businesses of all sizes use licensing to turn their IP into income-producing products, services, and technologies. His decades of experience run the gamut from medical devices to food technology to consumer products. He’s licensed some of the biggest Hollywood entertainment blockbusters including the Batman Movies (1 and 2), and the number one kid’s action TV show, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Rand speaks about licensing and is a featured speaker at investment conferences, trade shows, colleges and startup events. He’s a published writer with articles appearing in several prestigious trade magazine including The Licensing Journal, Intellectual Property Magazine, and License India. Rand also mentors at the Cal State Fullerton School of Business and Economics and is a judge for their startup business plan competitions.