For many companies, intellectual property is the revenue generator that fuels business and in turn funds future innovation. There’s so much potential value inherent in an IP asset, none of which can be realized if the property isn’t successfully exploited–and certainly not if its owners aren’t able to track key data about the asset throughout its lifecycle. Let’s explore challenges IP commerce teams often face when trying to understand exactly what they own.

Many Windows Into a Property

While everyone in an IP-based company rallies around their treasured properties, each individual is likely to have a different perspective on and relationship to the material, depending on their role. Acquisition- and Innovation-oriented departments need to track a living and quickly changing set of information related to interesting ideas and nascent projects being incubated internally or tossed into the funnel by potential IP creation partners. But until a greenlit idea rises to the level of a bonafide, monetizable property, the majority of early stage data would appear as clutter or create confusion for other teams such as Production, Sales, and Operations.

Even for an asset that everyone agrees is fully-fledged IP, regional divisions might also prefer to track that type of record’s metadata differently from one another, due to variations in regulations, standards, and practices in different territories. And in this current climate where merger & acquisition deals are prevalent in multiple industries, massive catalog consolidations often result in initially disparate lists of products that need to be carefully combined and de-duplicated, with metadata standardized across all records.

To face all of these challenges presented by different departments’ and regions’ ways of working with a shared catalog, companies must establish effective data input policies that thread the needle between enforcing strict field requirements and offering ample, role-specific flexibility. When data is populated too sparsely, the organization will miss opportunities to gather business insights from aggregated reporting; but requiring every conceivably interesting datum would ground record entry to a halt. Related to the data integrity concern but even more imperative is the need for data security. In order for valuable business information to be managed and disseminated strategically and in an easily auditable way, every individual needs the precise permissions to access, create, and update only the appropriate types of data. In short, a company’s IP data needs to be centralized and standardized, while offering a diverse set of options for viewing and manipulating each piece of information.

The IP with a Thousand Faces

Taking a step back from the myriad perspectives on how to track each bit of asset-related data, it’s fundamentally important for an organization to define what actually constitutes a trackable property, and to what extent its sub-parts are also distinctly trackable IP in their own right. After all, an intellectual property is a broad Platonic ideal, given flesh in the real world by its various physical or digital instantiations. Consider a few ways a single “superhero” idea can manifest:

  • Comic book series consisting of decades of separate volumes and their individual issues
    Frequently rebooted movie series, with select films earning separate “director’s cut” releases
  • Multi-season television series, with opportunities for episodes to be bundled in thematic “best of” collections in addition to the original season containers
  • Video game franchise developed for operability on PC and multiple different consoles
  • T-shirts, greeting cards, fast food promotions, and all other manner of consumer branding for which the character’s licensing has been granted

This example illustrates one potential web of relationships between assets, centered around a primary IP. As the individual, industry-specific pieces spin off, the type of data captured and the business practices surrounding each type of property will vary significantly. In many cases, a single company would have no reason to represent anything more than their small slice of granted rights that apply to their medium. Example: If the hypothetical videogame company licensed in the IP from a movie studio who owned overarching rights, they wouldn’t capture information related to individual theatrical films or comic publications that are outside of their gaming business model and rights grant.

Within each segment of an IP that a company does own and monetize, there are often sub-parts that constitute and affect the rights of the whole hierarchy. If a company sells exclusive North American video-on-demand rights for a Season of a television show they produced, that deal prevents them from including a child Episode in a special Collection bundle they want to sell to a separate licensee for the same territory-media combination. And the state of rights/restrictions is only one of the critical attributes that needs to be easily understood for every element of a property’s hierarchy. A host of other tabular information is often necessary for various teams to create, sell, and operationalize the use of a single property, such as:

  • Parties connected to the production and distribution of the property
  • Deals in which this property is included
  • Territory- or Use-specific key dates, which might be driven by other dates that have not yet been determined
  • Financial terms attached to the use of the property, which can affect royalty and participation calculations

In addition to understanding the attributes and rights of conceptual properties in their catalog, Sales teams also greatly benefit from insight into what is readily available to ship as part of any deal they are looking to make. Tracking inventory records as children of an IP catalog item can help Sales and Executive teams maximize margins by selling what has already been produced or analyzing the cost of manufacturing additional inventory or alternate versions. Ultimately, teams are not able to recognize the complete picture of their IP until every point of light in the constellation is made visible.

Operationalize What You Own

At Rightsline, we work closely with IP commerce companies around the world and across industries like Media & Entertainment, Publishing, Consumer Brands, Life Sciences, and beyond. We love investigating the pain points in every sector of this space, so we can consistently deliver useful solutions for each unique catalog management scenario. The steady rhythm of Rightsline’s monthly app updates allows us to take real-time feedback about every type of user’s needs and constantly improve the app experience for every type of user, from the person importing or updating asset data in the app, to IT group connecting title data to other systems via API and event-driven architecture, to the executives who want digestible views and reports on vast catalogs.

Rightsline customers get the benefit of full service solutions to foster data integrity, within a flexible structure that caters to the diverse needs of all internal team members. Customizable record Templates for each type of content provide standardization of and reportability against catalog data, combined with customizable and shareable Field displays and highly granular security roles to suit the needs of each department and regional division. Powerful tools like Date Math, Date Alerts, realtime Audit History, and role-based notifications keep IP info alive and key team members informed, while Catalog Workflows and modules like Projects, Inventory, and Jobs capture the complete lifecycle of IP from germinating ideas to efficiently delivered products. Rightsline is designed to enlighten IP-driven businesses about what they own, arming them with key intelligence about their catalog.