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Rembrandts in the Attic:
If you think patents are just about protecting inventions such as the film projector, you're missing the big picture. Now that ideas can be protected--for example, Priceline.com's business model--patents can be wielded to intimidate competitors, uncover their strategies, capture market segments, and, for many companies, generate millions in licensing revenues. Whether patented ideas will ultimately help or hinder innovation is still under debate (see Owning the Future). In Rembrandts in the Attic, however, authors Kevin Rivette and David Kline get down to business, offering practical advice for competing in today's intellectual property arena.
Their advice ranges from the simple to the sublime. First, they suggest, take stock of the patents you already own. Many companies are sitting on unused patents that could be worth millions. For example, IBM licensed its unused patents in 1990, and saw its royalties jump from $30 million a year to more than $1 billion in 1999, providing over one-ninth of its yearly pretax profits. And if you can't find buyers for your unused patents, then look for companies that are infringing upon them--companies that might owe you a piece of their profits. Rivette and Kline offer "patent mining" techniques to spot such potential infringers that can also reveal where your competitors are headed and help you get there before they do. Overall, Rembrandts in the Attic is a crafty and practical guide for companies that may have untapped riches in storage. --Demian McLean [via]