If like me you are old enough you might remember James Carville, Bill Clinton’s strategist for his famous phrase: “It’s the economy, stupid” back from 1992, directed at the winning candidate campaign’s workers which then became a well-known slogan for the election.
I admit there are times when I’ve been tempted to adapt that famous phrase when working with a variety of academics, students, researchers, business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to what I chose to be the title of this article: “It’s the intellectual property, stupid!”, but for etiquette reasons, especially in British working culture, prefer to convey the message in a more diplomatic fashion.
In fact, sometimes I even wonder if lawyers, intellectual property (IP) professionals and technology transfer experts ever feel the same, as lack of awareness of IP seems to affect the world of academics and businesses alike. And it appears that it’s not just me saying it based on anecdotal evidence.
What do reputable studies around IP suggest?
According to the Intellectual Property Awareness Survey1 carried out by the Intellectual Property Office in 2015, “94% of respondents thought that it was important to businesses to understand how to protect their IP”. But, surprisingly, “79% of firms did not know that telling people about an invention before applying for a patent could lead to an unsuccessful application”. Perhaps this is explained by the following highlight from the same report: “Less than 10% of firms provide staff training on IP”.
When it comes to students the results can also cause some concern. According to the IP report Student Attitudes Towards Intellectual Property2 done by NUS (National Union of Students) in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN), “Overwhelmingly, students felt that a knowledge of IP is important to both their education and their future career”, however “they do not perceive a strong link between IP and commercial success”. Understandably this is followed with the next statement: “Many students want to see improvements in IP teaching. In particular, they want the teaching of IP issues to be more closely-related to their course discipline… Overall, only 40% of students consider their current awareness of IP to be enough to support them in their future career”.
The above studies suggest there is a problem of low IP awareness and knowledge in both academic and business education with substantial room for improvement, for which the most evident solution will be more IP education. But how can this be achieved effectively and on a massive scale?
Regard IP as a foundation subject in education with the support of EdTech
- Update curriculums to include IP: Mandatory courses of most common types of IP like patents, trademarks, copyrights and design rights should be included at high level in secondary school to create an initial IP awareness and at more detailed level in Further and Higher Education, from Arts and Humanities careers that usually generate soft IP, to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) that generate hard IP (i.e.: patents) to train students with vital knowledge for their career journey.
- Select the appropriate IP teaching methods: For non-law students and teachers, IP can often represent a complex and dull topic to engage with, and considering current trends of traditional vs. education technology (EdTech) teaching there could be several scenarios:
- 100% traditional teaching approach with face to face theory lessons where the students will hardly learn the practicalities and risks of IP in the real world. This is the most common method used so far which doesn’t seem to be effective according to the studies previously mentioned.
- Hybrid approach to combine theory lessons with simulations run by experts and practitioners. This is a more comprehensive option compared to the previous one as it includes practice sessions, but not scalable considering it needs human intervention and complex organisation to take place.
- 100% IP EdTech: This is probably the best option to democratise IP knowledge globally given the digital nature of the tool that allows scalability but with an important caveat: evidence-based research needs to be applied to the product to measure IP knowledge improvement after the session, otherwise, like with many EdTech products, it would be an effort and investment gone to waste.
The main challenge to incorporate practice sessions in IP education is that the current IP simulation market is very fragmented, dominated by an elite of IP experts with a basic product offering, at times considerably expensive, which cannot scale-up and as a result limits IP teaching to a limited few.
Nevertheless, there is an innovative EdTech option called IPSim® developed by Tacit Simulations Ltd., a UK based company incubated in Cranfield University which consists of an online competitive multiplayer real-time strategy game, where players run a virtual company that trades in Intellectual Property. This engaging and immersive experience allows participants to apply IP theory knowledge into practice in a safe environment using gamified and experiential learning, minimising the risk caused by poor IP knowledge and awareness in the real world.
In 2019, IPSim® was subject to a study where evidence-based research was applied in the world-class UCL EDUCATE EdTech programme led by UCL Institute of Education. After quantitative data collected was analysed, the conclusion was that IP knowledge score of participants increased on average from 58% to 82% after IPSim® sessions. Long term impact would be an increase in the protection and commercialisation of IP which will take years to measure as student cohorts graduate (e.g. number of patents filed or trademarks registered, licencing agreements signed, etc.).
Effective IP education is key to develop and protect the knowledge economy which is based on innovation and IP generation, especially in today’s competitive world. In this context, IPSim® stands out as the first IP EdTech designed to democratise the knowledge of IP worldwide. Having been used in reputable institutions in the Europe and Asia, Tacit Simulations Ltd is now looking for strategic education, IP organisations and investment partners to further develop IPSim® to incorporate A.I. (solo player mode), interactive IP theory teaching, automated markings and e-certificates to boost IP learning worldwide, reduce the cost and complexity of IP education and convert IPSim® in a comprehensive online module to allow IP learning to take place anytime, anywhere.
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. If there is a genuine will from governments, IP organisations and education sector to improve IP knowledge to benefit businesses and the economy, perhaps it is time they embrace IP EdTech products like IPSim®. Alternatively, the price to pay for not protecting and commercialising more IP can be too high!
Remember, it’s the intellectual property, stupid!
© Roberto Di Nuzzo – MBA. MD @ Tacit Simulations Ltd.