Is all Intellectual Property created equal?

Most companies are concerned with protecting their Intellectual Property, and I wouldn't argue that this is a good idea.  However, I'm increasingly hearing the concern that companies are spending valuable resources protecting Intellectual Property that has little market value.

I recently met a patent attorney with a large corporation who described it this way.  He said that it used to be the earning a patent was the engineering equivalent of winning an Oscar.  Now, he equates earning patents to collecting baseball cards among the engineers in the company.  The patent group is very busy, and they are looking for ways to ensure that the company invests in protecting ideas that have the highest commercial value to the company.

This is a great question, and one that has not been given the corporate consideration it deserves.   The easy answer would be to require that people filing for patents provide a market assessment of the value of their idea.  The problem with that is you risk missing an opportunity to protect ideas for raw technology that may not have commercial value on their own, but provide the building blocks for a multitude of commercially valuable ideas.

There is no easy answer, but the question needs to be asked much more often.  I'm interested to hear how others are managing this issue.