Unleashing Value: How Your Association Can Capitalize on IP Licensing in the Age of AI

Intellectual Property (IP) Licensing is a strategy often underutilized by associations, yet it stands poised to become a crucial part of sustainable revenue models. In a landscape being reshaped by large language models (LLMs), associations should take swift action to explore, identify, protect, and license their valuable IP assets. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how professional associations can take advantage of opportunities to capitalize on IP Licensing.  

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights in the Context of Associations 

Intellectual property is not just patents held by tech giants or copyrights of bestselling authors. It can include trademarks, brands, logos, trade secrets, proprietary databases, educational materials, standards and guidelines, and more. The content you generate, the standards you promulgate, and the methods you employ might all hold untapped IP value. 

As an association, you can be a licensor, allowing others to use your IP in exchange for a fee. This is a license, a legal agreement where you maintain ownership while authorizing others to use your IP within set terms and conditions.  

While some associations have been licensing their IP for a while, there is a new opportunity on the horizon. Large Language Models (LLMs) which drive generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, Bard, and others have been called to account for what appear to be potential violations of intellectual property rights. As of this writing, there are numerous individual and class action filings in various jurisdictions alleging copyright infringement on the part of LLM developers. 

As the legal cases work their way through the courts, new licensing opportunities will emerge for associations who are prepared to take advantage. Content licensing partnerships between the LLM developers and content providers are already emerging (see AP, Open AI agree to share select news content.) 

The Untapped Benefits of Licensing Intellectual Property 

1. Additional Revenue 

Licensing can generate significant non-dues income. For many organizations, licensing agreements have been a lifeline in lean times, providing much-needed resources to help maintain and grow critical initiatives.  

2. Increased Brand Exposure 

Licensing your IP can significantly increase your brand's visibility. For example, your logo on a third-party product or your materials used in another organization's training program can expand your reach and promote your mission on a broader scale. 

3. Building Partnerships 

Licensing can foster productive, symbiotic relationships. Businesses looking to bolster their credibility might license your association's standards, thus building a partnership that enhances both your missions. 

4. Control Over IP 

Licensing allows you to maintain control over your IP, dictating how it's used, ensuring it aligns with your association's values, and protecting against misuse. 

Risks Involved in Licensing Intellectual Property 

Just like any strategy, IP licensing comes with potential pitfalls such as:  

1. Inappropriate Use of IP 

There's the risk of licensees misusing your IP, which could damage your reputation. Careful selection and regulation of licensees are crucial. 

2. Legal and Financial Risks 

The realm of IP is fraught with legal intricacies. Licensing agreements require expert legal oversight to avoid complications. Missteps can lead to financial and legal repercussions. 

3. Administration and Enforcement 

The task of managing licensing agreements and enforcing your IP rights requires resources. You'll need a dedicated team to handle these responsibilities. 

4. Inequity and Access Issues 

Licensing can inadvertently restrict access to your IP, potentially limiting the reach of your mission. You must balance revenue generation with mission-focused accessibility. 

Key Steps in Licensing Intellectual Property 

1. Inventory and Evaluation of IP 

First, identify and assess your IP. What unique resources, knowledge, methods, or brands do you possess? This often-overlooked step can unveil hidden value within your organization. 

2. Developing Licensing Strategy 

Develop a licensing strategy aligning with your mission and goals. Are you aiming purely for revenue generation, or are partnership-building and brand exposure part of the equation? 

3. Finding Potential Licensees 

Identify potential licensees. Look for alignment in values and mission, considering who would benefit from your IP and how their use could further your association's goals. [Note: don’t ignore the potential to license your IP to the LLM’s.] 

4. Negotiating Licensing Agreements 

Negotiate licensing agreements carefully. Protect your association's interests, ensure fair compensation, and maintain control over how your IP is used. 

5. Enforcing and Managing Licensing Agreements 

Once licensing agreements are in place, enforce and manage them rigorously. Ensure compliance and manage ongoing relationships with licensees. 

Wrapping IT Up 

The call to action is clear: professional associations should not overlook the potential of IP licensing as a source of non-dues revenue. The risks are manageable and with careful planning, and the rewards are significant.  

“Licensing has been instrumental in protecting CSI’s most valuable asset, the work of its members for the betterment of a profession and industry.” says Mark Dorsey, CEO of Construction Specification Institute. “Licensing our intellectual property to software companies has created a significant non-dues revenue stream for us. In the Age of AI, content licensing will continue to be part of our sustainable future. Cimatri has been instrumental in setting our strategy and helping us deliver non-dues revenue products based on our standards.” 

It’s time to leverage your intellectual property assets to their fullest potential, cementing the financial sustainability of your association. Cimatri has extensive experience developing IP licensing and distribution models for associations and non-profits. 

Reach out to our experts to evaluate your IP and start building your licensing strategy today or book a Meeting with Rick to discuss your IP Licensing Strategy 

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