I have just finished a new book, The invisible edge: taking your strategy to the next level using intellectual property. The authors are Mark Blaxill and Ralph Eckhardt, who are managing partners of 3LP Advisors, an "investment advisory firm focused on intellectual property".
It is packed with (almost entirely American) case studies of how companies used their intellectual property -- mainly patents in the case studies -- to make themselves successful. Or how, sometimes, they failed to realise the value of their property.
Many of the case studies were new to me. They include the story behind 3G technology, where manufacturers have to pay Qualcomm lots of money because of a vital patent; Xerox's success with the patent for the Xerox 914 model, the first viable photocopier, launched in 1959, and Gillette and Schick's fight over razor technology.
I had not realised that after Sony lost the Betamax/ VHS video format war, they concentrated on being a "shark". They would build leads in new technologies, get patents for them, and on the strength of that ask for license fees to use the technology. Japan itself gained hugely from anti-trust actions in the United States in the 1960s which forced American companies to license their technology cheaply. Japanese companies bought in the technology for low fees which enabled the opening up of the American market, an effect that was not understood at the time. I found particularly striking a page with charts showing the rise since 1960 of licensing out, rather than licensing in, technology for Japan and for Korea, as those countries developed their own technological leads.
The book claims that 80-90% of the value of many companies lies in their intellectual property, but that they often don't realise it. Economists, too, have traditionally not taken it into account as it does not rest easily in their models.
My only minor quibbles are that more on Europe would have been interesting (but then the raw material is more available for American studies), and I thought the value of a good trade mark was not emphasised enough. Not every company competes in a field where patents or copyright are vital.
An excellent read for anyone who suspects that their company is losing out in the battle for profits.