posted 1 Oct 2003 in Volume 7 Issue 2
Book review: Mila Striukova reviews Virtual Monopoly by Christopher Pike.
Title: Virtual Monopoly: Building an Intellectual Property Strategy for Creative Advantage – From Patents to Trademarks, From Copyrights to Design Rights
Author: Christopher G. Pike
Publishers: Nicholas Brealey, 2001
One may easily notice that despite the growing importance of intellectual property (IP), there are surprisingly few books dealing with strategy for developing and exploiting intellectual property, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises. This book is therefore very well timed.
Christopher Pike's central message in Virtual Monopoly is that businesses of all sizes, even the smallest, can take advantage of the opportunities offered by IP, and that by being equipped with knowledge, small businesses can compete more effectively against larger competitors. Indeed, he goes on to argue that smaller businesses may well have the edge in terms of creativity and versatility. What is more, the author's introduction of the concept of a virtual monopoly is a useful tool for managing the numerous issues that arise from the different varieties of intellectual property, especially when it concerns technology and biotechnology companies. Pike argues that in today's fast-paced business environment, companies that create a virtual monopoly are the most likely to succeed.
ntellectual property, he says, is the most effective way for companies to establish barriers to entry. Yet the trend toward enforcing IP contrasts sharply with the apparently unstoppable expansion of the knowledge economy. This requires openness with employees and investors, and extended relationships with many more partners, consultants and competitors. This amplifies the risks and pitfalls on the road to becoming a virtual monopoly – and remaining one. Pike leads his readers through all these issues with useful case histories and practical advice.
Today, books on IP strategy tend to concentrate on patents, with only a nodding reference to any other part of the intellectual-property portfolio. Pike, a patent attorney, also deals extensively with patents, giving the reader a solid grounding on patent law and practice. However, this is not to say that other areas related to IP are neglected. Pike redresses the balance very effectively by including discussion not only of patent application procedures, but also how to use a range of other IP rights, such as trademarks, copyright and design rights, to build competitive advantage in technology, brands and content. Unfortunately, his use of litigation examples from the UK, Europe and the US sometimes leaves the reader unsure of the exact legal position and options in each region, as Pike fails to differentiate between US, European and British law.
As to the layout of the book, every chapter, section, sub-section and sometimes paragraph are informatively titled, making the point as clear and easy to reference as possible. My only criticism is that it would have been helpful for the reader to see a more systematic approach to the citations at the end of the book.
I believe that Virtual Monopoly would be useful to both the entrepreneur who wishes to improve his or her understanding of the world of IP and the ways in which it can be used to generate and deliver wealth, and to the practitioner looking for a more rounded understanding of the application of IP in a broader business context. Pike writes concisely and his use of highly specialised vocabulary is kept to a minimum, which makes this book accessible to all. Not only will Virtual Monopoly appeal to IP professionals, it is also a great resource for the independent inventor or designer providing a road map for the development of IP and plenty of food for thought.
Virtual Monopoly is a thought-provoking read. Moreover, the style of the book is highly readable, which is not an easy thing to achieve in this complex area. Pike has identified and crystallised models and concepts in a way that makes the topic of IP, often held as an impenetrable area for those outside its day-to-day practice, readily understandable. He sets out a useful vocabulary of concepts and terms, describing intellectual property as a currency used in buy-sell relations and for measuring creative advantage. But Pike's attempt to outline a step-by-step guide to achieving virtual-monopoly status also reveals the shortcomings of his theory. His model largely ignores such fundamental issues as management and market dynamics, and the complex mix of ingredients that contribute to any business success story.
Mila Striukova is a PhD student at the University of London. She can be contacted at email@example.com