An intellectual property portfolio is a must-have for any business regardless of the sector. This could be full of registered designs, patents, trademarks, copyrights or a combination of all of these. IP legal rights are crucial to businesses and their growth strategy.
Many small businesses find that IP law confusing, but if you manage it correctly it can add genuine value to your business. Any small start-up will need to look into IP strategy because the investment community will want to see some evidence of this as it creates a barrier between your niche and the competition. There are certain points that businesses should consider when it comes to IP protection and management.
Intellectual Property Awareness
There are many different types of IP rights and you need to be aware of them including what they protect and how they come about. You need to know the difference between a trademark, copyright and a patent as well as when you should apply for them. There is a lot of useful information on the UKIPO website about the IP rights. It is important that you know the basics and how they apply to your business to protect what you are doing.
Strategy And Budget
Securing IP protection is not a free enterprise and will cost you varying amounts depending on what you are doing. In the past business value was in physical assets, but this has changed. Today, a business’ value is in the tangible assets such as intellectual property and expertise. This means that it is vital for you to have an IP strategy and include it in your business plan so you always have the budget for IP protection costs.
Ownership Of IP
All businesses have to consider who owns the IP which is the product of the creative effort as well as the legal rights. According to Feinberg Day your IP strategy should have processes in place which will help you capture all of the IP which is created by your employees. If one of your employees generates IP ask part of their daily job then the ownership is fairly straightforward and can be established as being owned by the employer.
However, if IP is created by a consultant or during a joint venture the identification of ownership becomes harder. If there is no written agreement the legal ownership of the IP could vary depending on the type of IP created. It is recommended that you always have a written agreement regarding IP ownership before you enter any joint ventures or collaboration.
Once the IP has been created, you have to consider what you need to do to protect it. In some cases, you will need to file a patent or fill in other applications for protection. If you are considering contacting an IP professional you have to ensure that you first keep the IP secret. This is particularly important if you are going to file a patent because any public disclosure of the product before the patent is filed will count against you.
Additionally, any disclosure regarding the product that is not confidential will count against you. In fact, there are many patent applications that have been tanked by disclosure of the product to potential investors.
The IP Strategy
You should consider how your IP rights can work for you and ensure that your IP strategy is in line with your overall business strategy. You will need to include geographical considerations such as where you market is, where the IP protection is and whether you will have to protect your IP overseas. You should also review your IP portfolio regularly and consider if the rights are still worthwhile to your business.
If you have IP rights that are no longer important to your business you should consider whether others could use them. IP is an asset which can be sold to others. This does not mean that you have to sell the license for the product as many patents relate to technological applications of the IP in different commercial fields. You should choose the option of selling that makes the most sense to your business and the one that is in line with your overall business strategy.