• Michelle Walker

3 Different Missions: 1 Thing in Common

Updated: Aug 2


How could I have worked for three organizations that made strategic use of their IP and no one researching the sector even mentions it? It seemed highly unlikely that I had happened to work at the only three nonprofits who were innovative enough to recognize their IP and they all happen to be in a 15-mile radius of each other. I struggled through statistics, but I have a good feeling those are long odds.


Do you know that feeling? The one where you know you know something, but you can’t really point to any proof and really aren’t sure you can even say why you know it’s true? That’s how I felt about my reaction to Tripp’s blog post, knowing that nonprofits have intellectual property, but not being able to find much of anything written about that fact.


My initial research turned up some practical guides and definitions of copyrights and trademarks. The guides were primarily for communications and marketing professionals working in nonprofits. These guides, though, only talked about the importance of brand protection and reputation, which is important but is not the only use and value of intellectual property assets.


I started to feel a little more hopeful when I encountered writings on intellectual property creation in research universities and their use of Technology Transfer Offices and the impact of the Bayh-Dole Act. But, eventually, even this hit a dead end because little nonprofit academic research has been done into the strategy of technology transfer other than as a way to own or spin-off potentially profitable intellectual property.


That spin-off data is important, but too advanced to say it was the answer to my sector-wide question. Not many folks would argue that your local research university shares a whole lot in common with the after-school arts program or the animal shelter and the strategic goals of those organizations.


Even the wonderful librarians at Indiana University couldn’t turn up anything of substance.