Intellectual Property

AuthorBert Spector
ProfessionProfessor of Strategy at Northeastern University
Intellectual Property 103
Knowledge and ideas have increasingly replaced machines and building s as the
currency of our economy. In the United St ates alone, economists estim ate that
corporations spend over $1 trillion a year developing intellectual assets, more
than is spent on the physical assets that until recently fueled commerce. As a
percentage of gross national product (GNP), investment in intellectual capital
has tripled, while investment in physical capital has been flat. The Internet
certainly helps explain that explosion, but other factors—the increasing com-
plexity of technology, the globalization of commerce, and the speed of innova-
tion and change among them—contribute. Virtually any business, regardless
of size, scope, or industry, traffics signif icantly in knowledge and ideas.
Given these developments—the growing importa nce of knowledge and
the increasing investment in developing it—there is little surprise that the
management of intellectual assets has become a major task for corporate
executives. And as much as in any other area of legal practice, the oversight,
protection , and exploitation of intel lectual proper ty brings in-hous e and out-
side counsel together with strategic decision makers. Executives approach
intellectual property (IP) as a tool for converting knowledge into value.
They turn to counsel for help in defining and protecting this v ital asset.

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