Svitlana V. Anderson
IP collaboration is hot and unwillingness to cooperate is not!
Traditionally, new technologies were developed overwhelmingly through a closed, walled-garden approach entirely in-house. Even attempts by end users or customers to communicate with manufacturers or distributors were categorically rejected as a matter of policy.
Today, such a closed approach has yielded to collaboration. This atmosphere of collaboration, with collaborative intellectual property and co-development agreements, has become more common among established companies. These arrangements generally presume a subsequent licensing agreement with a third party, or a co-promotional agreement between collaborating parties, if they also plan to undertake commercialization of the product or service resulting from their coordinated efforts.
It’s easy to understand why collaborative efforts would be beneficial. In many instances, it may be far more efficient for multiple entities to work together to produce complex technology. Rather than a single company attempting to reinvent the wheel or other essential elements of a given product or service in-house, a group of companies can each work to their individual strengths, often at a far lower expense for all parties involved. The result is often a better product with greater commercial potential.
However, in too many instances of collaboration, the intellectual property is overlooked. Often, collaborative relationships proceed without giving sufficient attention to the question of ownership of the intellectual property involved. Such negligence can have serious and costly consequences, especially in arrangements where extensive collaboration and co-inventions are involved. Before the parties invest time and money in the collaboration, they should outline their expectations as to development or commercialization milestones, resolve who owns what, and coordinate the formalities and responsibilities of managing the intellectual property.
If the ownership in the intellectual property is properly identified and secured, the collaborative relationship will last. To ensure proper arrangement, a written agreement outlining intellectual property ownership must be put in place before the collaborative efforts begin. A strong co-development agreement, with a focus on intellectual property, protects all parties involved and takes the issue of intellectual property ownership off the table. This agreement will reduce the hazards of dispute or adverse legal action down the line.