According to IP Law & Bus., Sept. 2008 at 42, an IP department should agree with executive management as to the ultimate purposes of the department. I have paraphrased the three basic objectives.
Inside patent lawyers might focus on “freedom to operate,” which includes such steps as extensive patenting or even defensive publishing to prevent others from patenting.
Another strategic objective could be “maximizing value,” where the group might devote more resources to licensing patents that are otherwise unused.
A third strategy looks to “enforcement,” which could drive efforts to develop interlocking protection from families of patents and can call for establishing of reverse engineering team to spot check if competitors who might be infringing.
These choices pertain to the strategic plan for a portion of law department (See my post of June 25, 2008: strategic plan with 10 references.) Never would a patent group pursue one of these strategic initiatives single-mindedly; all groups deploy the strategies in different mixtures. But at bottom, one of these objectives may predominate in any given company.