The IP Long-Tail

It’s been over 12 years since Chris Anderson published his seminal article ‘The Long Tail‘. In it he described an emerging economic model where he argued that products in low demand or that have a low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters. Anderson mainly focused on the media and entertainment industries but it is tantalising to think of what is produced in the daily churn of a research focused organisation that is not known about, not utilised and not generating income. In the media industries it is obvious Anderson’s predictions were right. Businesses that built in the long-tail to their business model have won out over more limited offers. For example Spotify, Netflix, Amazon (the kings of the long-tail) and Steam.

Within technology transfer however, the disruption is yet to hit. Time and effort is largely concentrated on the big, exclusive deals or on hiring out expertise on a consultancy basis. Whilst these are viable and valid, the opportunities with non-exclusive IP still remain relatively unexplored. The line between the exploited and unexploitable is what Clay Shirky describes as the ‘Coasean floor‘ — below which we find projects and activities that aren’t worth their organisational costs. In technology transfer, those costs are the expensive legal and business management fees that make licensing, even a £500 piece of software, nonsensical.

However, digital tools such as E-lucid radically lower that coasean floor. It’s a centralised platform that automates the project management and legal process to a point where licensing a £500 piece of software is not only feasible but has dramatically less overheads associated with it, generating income for the organisation, potentially for years, with little or no further work needed — discoverable by a global customer base.