Consumer Generated Intellectual Property (CGIP) and Emotional Property

Emotional property is "the emotional investment in an act of creation, and the attachment to the creation itself, such that the creator feels ownership of the creation" (Berthon et al 2015: 46).

In this posting I explain why and how companies need to manage the intellectual property and the emotional property generated by creative consumers.

Traditionally, firms have produced goods and services, and consumers have consumed or used them. However, consumers are not only using and consuming, but also increasingly creating products, services and related intellectual property and adapting and modifying the proprietary offerings of companies. Consider for example the legendary hacker George Hotz, who unlocked the original iPhone and hacked Sony’s PlayStation 3. He gave these innovations away free to the public. Consumers also create and publish a vast amount of informational content. Consider all the images uploaded to Facebook, the book reviews posted on Amazon and the videos on YouTube: all of this is consumer generated content ends up belonging to the companies. Regardless of whether consumers are changing physical products or generating information content, these creative acts produce “consumer-generated intellectual property” (CGIP)—intellectual property produced by consumers rather than only by companies.

CGIP has components that appeal to companies and consumers, but are also a source of potential conflict. From the perspective of the company, the focus is on controlling the CGIP and appropriating value from it. While on the consumer’s side it is about the credit and emotion associated with creativity. These differences highlight that CGIP involves not just intellectual property, but also emotional property.

As intellectual property is the legal rights to creations of the mind, emotional property is the emotional investment in or attachment to creations of the heart and mind. More specifically we define emotional property as the product of the affection, fervor and energy that consumers devote to the creative act, and the attachment and pride they have with their creation.

Emotional property is an important but overlooked feature of innovation management. As it governs how consumers react to companies seeking to exploit their creations and CGIP, we present a framework of eight strategies, the 8 Cs (cultivate, coordinate, cooperate, capture, code condemn, crush and copy Cs) to help managers deal with CGIP. The 8 Cs are based on whether companies are positively or negatively disposed to CGIP, and whether the strategic action is directed primarily at the consumer or at the company. Figure 1 shows how the eight strategies (or 8 Cs) for CGIP vary in terms of these two dimensions.

Figure 1: CGIP Strategies
Figure 2: The Emotional Property-Intellectual Property (EPIP) Matrix

The Emotional Property-Intellectual Property (EPIP) matrix (Figure 2) plots the 8 Cs and shows why companies would adopt a certain strategy. This on the extent to which the company perceives the consumer to have either high or low emotional property vested in the innovation, and the extent to which the firm has the potential to control the intellectual property.

The 8 Cs available to companies all fit neatly into the EPIP matrix, but we illustrate just two of the Cs here. Where the firm’s potential control of- and the consumer’s emotional attachment to the IP are both low, the firm can either “condone” or “condemn” an infringement. A nice example of the condone strategy is Sony’s decision to ignore a breach of its copyright in the case of the now famous JK Wedding Dance video. Jill and Kevin used a song by Sony artist Chris Brown as background music to the entrance of the bridal party and put the video on YouTube where it got millions of hits. Sony’s decision was driven not only by the fact that the video was just good harmless fun, but also because the artist had recently gotten really bad press and was in bad need of an image resuscitation. Where both the firm’s potential control of- and the consumer’s emotional attachment to the IP are high, a firm can implement a cooperate strategy. The website Quirky invites consumers to submit new product ideas to its site for consideration. If an idea is favorably received it is then developed into a prototype and in many cases eventually turned into a commercial product. In exchange for Quirky funding this development process, the inventor assigns all IP to Quirky. Quirky gains and controls the IP, but the consumer also gets credit and remuneration, which compensates their high emotional stake.

This posting is based on research in the following article:

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