The publication “Putting the IAM Function at the Heart of Corporate Strategy” by Mark Blaxill and Ralph Eckardt addresses the critical issue of integrating Intellectual Property (IP) management into the core of corporate strategy. The authors argue that despite the strategic importance of IP to a company’s competitiveness and financial performance, there is a significant disconnect between IP professionals and senior executives, often leading to a lack of appreciation for IP’s value at the executive level.

Problem Statement

The primary problem identified by Blaxill and Eckardt is the “creamed spinach face” phenomenon, where senior executives react negatively or indifferently to discussions about IP, particularly patents. This reaction symbolizes a broader disconnect between the IP community and the C-suite, where IP is often seen as a legal or technical issue rather than a strategic asset. This disconnect results in IP being undervalued and underutilized in corporate strategy, leading to missed opportunities for competitive advantage and financial growth.

Key Areas of Disconnect

The authors identify four key areas of disconnect that need to be addressed to bridge the gap between IP professionals and senior executives:

1 . Adopting a New Strategic Lens: In the knowledge economy, IP has become the principal source of competitive advantage. IP professionals need to understand this shift and communicate it effectively to those involved in setting corporate strategy.

2 . Understanding the Invisibility of IP: IP assets often do not appear on financial statements, making them invisible to many executives. Understanding why C-suite executives misunderstand IP is crucial for proposing fixes that will help intellectual assets gain appropriate recognition.

3 . Overcoming the Communication Gap: IP executives must learn to translate legal and technical terms into corporate finance language that management understands. Demonstrating the link between IP and profits in financial terms is essential.

4 . Breaking Out of IP’s Organizational Silo: Effective IP management requires integration into the broader business. Keeping IP in a silo limits its impact. IP executives must push for deeper integration of IP management into the business.

Argumentation and Recommendations

To solve these problems, Blaxill and Eckardt recommend several strategies:

1. Adopting a New Strategic Lens

The authors argue that IP should be viewed as the primary driver of value creation in the modern economy. They trace the evolution of business strategy through three stages:

  • Cheap Company: Focused on low-cost production and mass-market dominance.
  • Fast Company: Emphasized process economics, re-engineering, and best practices.
  • Smart Company: Relies on the ownership of unique methods or features through IP to create a sustainable competitive advantage.

They emphasize that successful executives in the current era will be those who appreciate IP as the primary driver of value creation and manage it effectively.

2. Understanding the Invisibility of IP

Blaxill and Eckardt highlight that IP assets do not show up on financial statements, creating an “invisibility cloak” that shields these assets from view. They argue that IP expenditures often look like expenses rather than investments, leading to IP departments being seen as cost centers. To address this, they recommend:

  • Establishing a real market price for IP through licensing.
  • Demonstrating how IP contributes to financial success in terms that management understands, such as market power, cost advantages, and revenue generation.

3. Overcoming the Communication Gap

The authors stress the importance of translating IP concepts into business language. They provide a lexicon for IP professionals to use when communicating with senior executives:

  • Patent/Trademark Prosecution and Filing Fees = Asset Investment
  • Injunction/Exclusion = Market Power
  • Balancing Payment = Sustainable Cost Advantage
  • Licensing Expense = Cost of Goods Sold
  • Infringement = Negotiating Leverage or Partnership Opportunity

By using this lexicon, IP professionals can better communicate the strategic value of IP to the C-suite.

4. Breaking Out of IP’s Organizational Silo

Blaxill and Eckardt recommend integrating IP management into the broader business structure. They suggest:

  • Ensuring the head of IP reports to the CEO rather than the general counsel.
  • Embedding IP professionals within business units to improve understanding and collaboration.
  • Demonstrating the financial relevance of IP through actions and results, rather than pushing for organizational changes.


The authors conclude that the struggle to put IP at the center of corporate strategy is ultimately about financial relevance. They call on IP executives to engage colleagues at all levels, from the C-suite to R&D, marketing, and product groups, to demonstrate how IP contributes to market share, revenues, profitability, and stock price. They emphasize that innovation without protection is philanthropy and that IP provides both the incentive to invest and the means to capture returns on those investments. By addressing the four key areas of disconnect and implementing the recommended strategies, IP professionals can bridge the gap with senior executives and ensure that IP is recognized and utilized as a strategic asset, driving sustainable competitive advantage and financial success for their companies.