12 May 2020|Legals & Compliance
In order to safeguard your work, and to work profitably in the future, it is worth considering the importance of creating a formal IP strategy early on to prevent loss of investment and time.
Align IP strategy with business strategy
80% of a business’ value is in its intangible assets. With this statistic in mind, it makes undeniable sense to base the strategic framework of a company around those assets and other IP issues. Trying to segway an IP strategy into your existing business plan may prove a little less than effective, as trying to protect innovation after you have already begun work could leave you vulnerable to finding out someone else was there before you.
It should not be assumed that most businesses have arrived at their current status through ruthless planning; it is far more believable that natural, organic growth has got them to where they are. Therefore, when considering IP strategy, it would make the most sense to start with an analysis of the business’ internal organisation to identify any potential assets that may have been overlooked.
When doing this, it is important to be aware of the different business frameworks you may fall within as they will present different challenges, for example:
- SMEs – this size of business tends to have better opportunities to integrate a robust IP framework within their business strategy. While growing, it can be easier to adopt policies.
- Corporates – by this point in their life-span, these businesses could be expansive and ungainly. Due to this, it is vital to have clarity around IP strategy. Either strong in-house IP counsel or an excellent relationship with an external firm is strongly advisable.
Carry out an IP audit
Don’t just include the basics here, such as a schedule of registered intellectual property including patents, trade marks, design registrations and plant variety rights. Think about the things that the audit should help determine, e.g:
- any unregistered IP rights within the business;
- gaps in your current protection;
- any existing risks (internal systems, ownership and conditions of use);
- any existing opportunities that there is no strategy around – the protection needs could be broader than the current business model; and
- whether any of your current spend is trying to resuscitate property past its sell-by date.
Making sure the right firm, or internal team, is at the heart of your IP creation is invaluable. Growing a business with poor or no IP strategy, or a weak position, may be expensive. You may find your organisation going down the route of trying to protect the wrong things or developing an unprotectable product or, worse still, launching a product that is protected by someone else’s rights, which, down the line, may have to be discontinued.
Investing in any cost-heavy marketing campaign without a clear approach to IP, both your own and other businesses, could be ruinous; think reputation and budget. If you miss out on what could have been a lucrative opportunity due to previously unidentified IP issues, you could live to regret it.
What to do next
Depending on your business, there may be one or several different types of applicable IP, but what needs to be considered is which type(s) of IP will best protect your business model and aspirations and take action accordingly.
About the author
Vicki Strachan heads up leading intellectual property firm Mathys & Squire’s Oxford office. She has many years’ experience of advising clients of varying sizes on all aspects of intellectual property, whether that be in relation to the management of a large portfolio of patents and designs covering a large range of products and services, helping SMEs to develop a sound IP strategy, or helping startups and entrepreneurs to secure the protection they need to launch a product for the first time. Vicki specialises in electronics, semiconductors, optoelectronics, robotics and computer-implemented inventions, and has many years’ experience working with innovative companies in a number of different fields.