Technology and Society

Book Reviews
What's New
Privacy & Individual Rights
Commerce, Security, & the Law
Net Culture, Art, & Literature
International Affairs & National Security
Ethics, Rhetoric, & Metaphysics
Science Fiction

Other Resources
Other Book Review Sites

Intellectual Property Strategy Cover Image

Title: Intellectual Property Strategy
Author: John Palfrey
Publisher: MIT Press
Copyright: 2011
ISBN13: 978-0-262-5167902
Pages: 157
Price: $11.95
Rating: 100%


According to the introduction found on the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series' web page, the goal of volumes in the series is to "deliver concise, expert overviews of topics ranging from the cultural and historical to the scientific and technical." Other titles in the series as of this writing include Information and the Modern Corporation, Computing: A Concise History (forthcoming), and Open Access (forthcoming).

I'm not an intellectual property (IP) expert, but I have had some experience with trademark registrations, copyright filings, and witnessing my books on Microsoft Excel appear on torrent sites within days of publication. Based on those experiences, I believe Intellectual Property Strategy provides senior executives and other leaders with the necessary rudiments of IP law and the resulting policy options. At the very least, reading this book will make the issues more comprehensible and allow executives to ask appropriate questions of their legal, marketing, and public relations staffs.

 Author John Palfrey is a professor at Harvard Law School, in addition to being vice dean of the school's Library and Information Resources. He is also co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, affiliated with Harvard, which offers a wide variety of useful materials online and hosts in-person programs in and around Cambridge, MA. His years of experience in this field make him eminently qualified to present on this subject.

I purchased the physical edition of this book because I thought it was an interesting subject and, at $11.95 new, the price is certainly right. As Palfrey states in the introduction, this is the sort of book to be read on a cross-country airplane ride. That said, the underlying strategies and perspective mean that readers will likely refer back to it as issues arise.

Every situation is different and intellectual property laws change rapidly, both in the U.S. and abroad, but Palfrey's overview focuses on the well-established tenets of intellectual property law. In the first part of Intellectual Property Strategy, the author cautions against using IP protections as a "sword and shield." In that strategy, you use IP as a sword by going on the offensive and suing infringing parties. Conversely, you use the shield to pre-empt violations through the threat of suit.

Instead, Palfrey advocates approaching IP as a boardroom tool to make deals, capture license revenue, and use as fodder for trades to gain access to other organizations' ideas. He lays out a four-part strategy (which is the meat of the book, so I won't disclose it here) that allows organizations to make the most of their knowledge. He notes that litigation over IP is notoriously risky even the slightest change in the facts of a case can invalidate a patent, nullify a copyright, or make a trademark generic so it's best to avoid the courtroom if at all possible.

Many contemporary business books seek to increase sales by taking a controversial stance. In most cases, doing so is artificial and unnecessary. I appreciated Palfrey's even-handed approach to the subject matter, particularly because this series is designed to ground readers in the rudiments of a subject. His writing is straightforward, informative, and highly readable; his four-part strategy provides a terrific framework for IP management; and his footnotes and Recommended Reading list to be outstanding tools for readers who want to explore the subject further.

I recommend Intellectual Property Strategy without reservation.


Curtis Frye  

Curtis Frye ( is a freelance writer and corporate entertainer who lives in Portland, Oregon. He has written more than 20 books and recorded over a dozen training courses on Microsoft Excel -- you can find his free online resources for Excel users at In addition, Curt is a popular speaker and corporate entertainer. For more information about his performances and Improspectives training, visit