Should the general counsel oversee intellectual property activities?

Forgive the bad pun, but there is a new meaning to “IP replacement”: “Historically, the general counsel has handled IP, but that’s an antiquated model,” says an IP lawyer quoted in IP Law&Bus., Jan. 2007 at 16. The arrival of the IP “czars” – at companies such as Hewlett-Packard (Damon Matteo), General Electric (Q. Todd Dickinson), Boeing, Microsoft and Yahoo! (Joseph Siino)– asserts a broader perspective on IP management than the narrower view legal departments hold. IP assets are a multidimensional issue, influencing fundamental business practices and procedures, marketing strategy, legal policies and practices, and igniting heated political agendas. Writ so large, the IP message shouldn’t be written by mere lawyers.

Many posts on this blog concern the scope of a general counsel’s responsibilities, but until now I had thought IP legal protection was sacrosanct. The article, however, introduces a broader view on the “strange beast” of enterprise-wide IP, and puts on the table for discussion whether it should report to legal, R&D, a chief technology officer (CTO), CEO or COO.

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