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Value generation trumps asset protection in European intellectual property strategies

New research from the Economist Intelligence Unit, based on a survey of over 400 senior executives, explores how European firms plan to utilise their intellectual assets

The strategic importance of intellectual property (IP) is growing rapidly, and European companies are changing how they manage IP. Protecting the firm's "crown jewels"—its patented or copyrighted assets—remains critical. However, according to a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, pressure from shareholders is also building to use swollen IP portfolios to improve top-line results. When asked the key drivers in their quest for better IP management, European executives most frequently cite the opportunity to expand the revenue base (50% of survey respondents), slightly more than mention the need to protect investments in R&D (49%).

The research also finds that collaboration is crucial to IP value maximisation. Realising the full potential of ideas means letting them flow in and out of organisations to where they can be most efficiently handled at each stage of their development. Fully 68% of surveyed European executives say that increased R&D collaboration with third parties is central to improving their firms' innovation, and another 46% say the same of collaboration in standards development.

"The creation of intellectual property is coming increasingly to rely on open innovation," says Robin Bew, Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit. "In developing an IP strategy, companies will need to strike the right balance between protecting and sharing their ideas."

These findings are published today in The value of knowledge: European firms and the intellectual property challenge, a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by QUALCOMM. (The Economist Intelligence Unit bears sole responsibility for the content of the white paper and this press release. The findings and views expressed here and in the report do not necessarily reflect the views of QUALCOMM.)

Other key findings of the report include the following:

• European companies require greater legal harmonisation. Now that the long-awaited European Community Patent looks likely to become law, Europe's policymakers must turn their attention to harmonising local IP standards, practices and rules in order to lower the cost of innovation for local companies. The European Commission and EU member governments can also help by lobbying and working with authorities in emerging markets to improve their enforcement capacity.

• European IP remains under threat in both developing and developed markets. Patent infringement from emerging-market competitors tops the list of threats to IP cited by surveyed executives. China is the respondents' biggest worry, but executives are optimistic that the country's IP regime will improve in the short to medium term, as local firms develop valuable IP of their own. In the developed world, meanwhile, recurrent litigation and inconsistent international patent legislation are a major drain on the resources of European companies.

"We note the rising importance of IPR protection and value creation to a growing number of sectors in European commerce, in both developed and emerging markets," says Andrew Gilbert, President, QUALCOMM Europe. "In regard to China, it is also worth underscoring the report's finding that the Chinese government is taking substantial efforts to strengthen IPR enforcement and is working with companies toward this end. This finding is in line with QUALCOMM's positive experience in the China market."

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