April 5, 2020
Place smart bets: Zero-based budgeting – for IP Strategy
Place smart bets: Zero-based budgeting – for IP Strategy


With budgets under pressure, you can’t just do less of the same – you need to make strategic choices and maximise your protection per pound

Back in the 1970s, Pete Pyrrh, an accounting manager for Texas Instruments introduced the concept of Zero-Based-Budgeting (or ZBB). Rather than historical practices around the boardroom, “same as last year, lads?”, ZBB was all about allocating funds based on the company’s strategic intent rather than reinforcing historical precedents.

The reason why it hasn’t become more widespread is that it comes with a host of disadvantages too - especially the time involved, bureaucracy, lack of agility and guarding against self-interested creative justifications by department heads.

However, companies who do this well realise significant benefits in terms of accuracy, reduction in wasteful spend and communication between departments (as everyone has visibility on each other’s intent).

As an IP Counsel, or GC, and you look through the lens of ZBB:

Can you defend your IP strategy?

It’s easy to see how the incremental changes over time can cause a significant drift from your strategic intent, and ultimately, your protection hasn’t kept up with your business:

Changes to the corporate landscape and circumstances (e.g. following M&A activity)

Priorities change depending on brand stage (launch products migrate into “focus” or “core” over time)

Future expansion plans need to be accommodated

Sleepwalking into nightmares

Without mindful management, you can absolutely understand how you could end up with holes in your protection, or coverage that is overly narrow that leaves you exposed. Either resulting in significant and expensive disputes or missed opportunities you can never recoup.

At Stobbs, we’ve worked with over 2000 clients over the last 5 years, and almost without exception, all have more to do than they can currently manage. There will be gaps – the question is, which gaps are you prepared to accept?

Maximising (Pro/£) - protection per pound

With the significant budget pressures caused by the economic crisis by COVID-19, now is the time for a ZBB IP Strategy review:

You need to make the right prioritisation calls – matching company strategy and direction with brand protection

You need to be able to react immediately in line with your IP strategy, so you have a clear plan of action when confronting uncertainty

All of this with less spend - a 1970s, “10% less than last year, lads” approach will surely fail.

Stobbs approach since its foundation in 2013 (not the 1970s) is to take the positive elements of a ZBB approach to your brand protection, but without any of the drawbacks

Our company vision is “We will protect creativity and drive commercial success through

A holistic and strategic approach

An imaginative and practical application of law”

The holistic approach is to build a strategy with you that brings certainty to your IP function. To align IP protection with your priorities, brands and markets. Building scenarios and triggers for activating them and constantly revisiting the strategy to keep it relevant.

The practical application speaks to creating and managing budgets – stripping out costs, reviewing overseas agents to ensure cost and time efficiency.

Clarity – we never charge for building IP Strategy

Of the four values that make us, us, the first is Clarity – being straight up. The best advice, no waffle, no agenda, no jargon.

This is a central part of our approach - it’s essential to shape future activities that we agree upon in terms of scope, timings and costs up-front.

Zero-cost peace-of-mind

Whether you have an established approach, but want to review in light of budget pressure, or if you are looking to define for the first time, talk to Julius (julius@iamstobbs.com) about conducting a IP Strategy Review now. There will be no cost – we never charge new nor existing clients for this. You’ll then have the peace-of-mind that when your FD comes calling for incremental cost savings, you’ll have complete confidence you are getting maximising protection per pound of your budget.

Trademarks /  Designs & Copyright /  Brand Valuation /  Brand Intelligence /  Patents /  Brand Structuring

Found this article interesting today?
Send us your thoughts: