Q&A with Jack Ellis, Reporter, Intellectual Asset Management Magazine

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, Microsoft on the Issues

Intellectual Asset Management Magazine recently published a feature story entitled “A revolution launched on the back of IP” which highlights the role intellectual property played in helping to bring Kinect for Xbox 360 to market. Reporter Jack Ellis spoke to members of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business and Intellectual Property Group to understand how the two groups partnered together early on in the development process to protect innovations. The article profiles some of the big moments in time for patents, copyright and trademark around Kinect for Xbox 360.

We invited Jack to join us for a brief question and answer session to talk a little about why he was interested in reporting on this story, how he thinks IP professionals should view the current IP landscape and what some of the big priorities for IP leaders are in the year ahead.

Q: You wrote an extensive cover story for the May/June issue of Intellectual Asset Management Magazine on the role IP played in helping bring Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 to market. Why were you interested in reporting on this story and was there anything that surprised you about Microsoft’s strategy?

A: We wanted to report on this story to show just how important a role IP can, and should, play in the development of game-changing products – and Kinect is certainly one of those. Our readers already know that Microsoft is one of the most IP-savvy companies in the world. But what I, and I believe our readers, found so impressive is just how knowledgeable Microsoft’s ‘non-IP’ people are on the subject. I spoke at length with Alex Kipman, general manager of incubation. He is not a patent or trademark attorney, yet he can speak fluently about IP and he totally grasps its integral role in getting a product like Kinect to market. It was clear from speaking to Alex that this awareness is something that is shared with people throughout the company. This fact alone demonstrates Microsoft’s IP leadership credentials.

Q: Many of Intellectual Asset Management Magazine’s readers are sophisticated IP professionals. Has there been any feedback from your readers about this story?

A: Statistically, we know that the story was the most-read on-line of any that we published in issue 53 of IAM, while the blog we did about it has attracted the most readers and reads of any we have done this year. More anecdotally, there are a range of opinions out there on Microsoft; but whatever their feelings about the company, I think our readers will all agree on one thing – Microsoft really gets IP. What our readers are after are examples of best practice and how to achieve it. They have clearly been fascinated to see how the different Microsoft teams interacted during Kinect’s development process and how IP strategy was key to that process throughout, from patent landscaping to worldwide trademark clearance searches and the licensing that has enabled independent developers to take Kinect even further.
Q: Intellectual property is receiving a lot of attention in the media today. If you could provide your readers with a single piece of advice about the current IP landscape what would that be?

A: The global economy is still going through a very rough period. However, intellectual property and other company intangibles, including reputation and know-how, are crucial to the long-term success of businesses. If they invest in protecting and nurturing their intangible assets, businesses can give themselves a much better chance of weathering the economic storm – and with the right strategies, they can create extra value from those assets. However, the single most important thing to remember about IP is that it is as only as valuable as what it protects. Having the right IP strategy is not an alternative to offering your market the products and processes it wants.
Q: Intellectual Asset Management Magazine is one of the most respected IP outlets today. What are some of the things IP professionals should be looking out for in the year ahead?

A: At IAM, we have been considering whether IP is currently at a tipping point. And we think it is. There are strong indications that boardrooms in many industries are finally waking up to just how valuable their IP can be. For the first time, big IP-related deals and disputes are being given mainstream media coverage, and that has percolated through to both senior executives and investors. We expect that this trend will continue over the coming years, so that eventually all companies will be similar to Microsoft in seeing IP as a corporate asset of pivotal importance.

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