A Fine Balance: Collaborative Economy And Branding

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October 14, 2017

The collaborative economy, or sharing economy as it is sometimes referred to, is in its simplest form composed of online platforms that let users turn items they don’t need into passive income. It is otherwise known as: “I don’t need a drill, I need a hole in the wall”. The apparition of the collaborative economy is a major trend that redefines business models that we thought were long established to give consumers the power to drive transactional exchanges at their own level. But in an economic system where people prefer to share instead of purchasing good and services, it’s important to ask yourself the right questions about how businesses can protect their intellectual property — the creative work that is perceived as a physical property or an asset, namely copyright, trademarks, design rights and, of course, patents. How can you protect your intellectual property in a business model where sharing is the main mean of consumption and where the need to purchase new devices or services is sinking dramatically?


The economy of sharing

As a lot of people already know, instead of buying a car, if you happen to need a car only occasionally, you can find a vehicle to share through zipcar.com. Similarly, if you want to visit the beautiful Christmas market in Bremen, Germany in December, you know that instead of booking a hotel room, you can find the perfect room on https://www.airbnb.com. Airbnb is so commonly used that it’s easy to forget that it’s not a hotel booking system, but it’s a platform that enables homeowners to share the bedrooms, flats or houses that they don’t use with an international audience. In fact, the trend of sharing has grown so much over the past few years, that some brands such as Patagonia let consumers recycle their clothing from one user to another.  

The evolution of patent and intellectual property

However, not every brand has made the move successfully — or at all — towards the collaborative economy. Consequently, in an effort to better prepare themselves to tackle the new economy challenge, it’s fundamental that brands, inventors and businesses consider new patent and intellectual property protections to guarantee the fair use of their assets. There are several approaches, from using an IP platform such as https://licentix.com/ to out-license your patent rights to professional buyers to looking out for innovative collaborative economy protection, such as a limiting the duration of rights granted to each consumer. Licensing your property rights can protect your assets in the new economy model.

The matter of trust and exposure

In a collaborative model, trademarks and brands provide the necessary exposure to the sharer. Without the strong online presence of Airbnb via an app, a website and social media platforms, it’s likely that users would not feel confident booking rooms at the other end of the planet in the house of people they’ve never met. But there’s a switch in trademark need. It’s not the end product that needs the label of quality, but it’s the platform that enables the exchange.   

Businesses need to embrace this new model of economy to be in a position where they can not only target buyers but borrowers too on the appropriate platforms and with the best-suited patent. From a marketing perspective, it’s time to work closely with your sharers!