Tuesday, 21 April 2015

IP and bankers

5 March 2015

I meet with some people from ITMA and some people from the IPO, to talk about IP audits and spreading the IP message to SMEs.  The conversation turns to the IP triage thing I suggested when they were foolish enough to let me address a roomful of business advisers last autumn.  We think IP triage is a great idea, say the people from the IPO. 

There is a pause, whilst we all think about the great idea, and how great it would be to have IP triage check-lists and IP triage training for business advisers, and business triage training for IP attorneys.  And then there is another pause, whilst we all think about how we have no spare time in which to do those things and how nice it would be if someone else said they would do them for us.

After the two pauses, we agree to “give it some more thought”.  This is meeting-speak for putting it on the to-do list, moving it on every week and hoping no-one will mention it again until next time. 

The IPO people show us their about-to-be-published pamphlet called the “IP Finance Toolkit”.  The purpose of this pamphlet is to help businesses explain to their bank managers why it is OK to lend them money using their IP as security.  This is not something bank managers are renowned for doing.  The pamphlet has a check-list of ways to convince your bank manager – or more likely your Customer Relationship Manager who lives 250 miles away – that your IP is genuine and is being properly managed and is actually in better shape than either your office or your car.

It seems odd to me that bankers, who have no trouble at all with things like derivatives and futures, should be reluctant to lend money against a patent or trade mark.  At least patents and trade marks actually exist.  Not like derivatives, which are not only intangible but downright incomprehensible and are in any case themselves derived from other, even less tangible, things that seem only vaguely associated with reality.  If IP is the Emperor’s new clothes (and who am I to suggest that but, hey, just saying), then derivatives are surely his new potential dry cleaning bills.

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