Undervalue IP at your peril!
Some things all businesses need to know about IP
It goes without saying, well looked after IP is ever more important for UK businesses.
UK businesses are holding fewer and fewer capital assets. Instead cashing in on their: experience, expertise and ideas.
Whether it's a: brand, designs, patents or creative executions... Businesses are now built more and more on these ideas.
But often (unlike physical assets held under lock and key) these IP assets are not protected.
Losing the big ideas behind a business (or having them copied) can be devastating. And it happens all the time.
As businesses get bigger, so does the target on their back... and without being assertive about establishing their rights - they risk losing it all.
It’s critical that all businesses understand 4 key things about IP. And fast.
1. All businesses already have IP
Many businesses are in denial about the intangible assets they have. And, that which they do have is taken for granted. But it's key for businesses to take stock of what IP they have, how valuable it is, and how best to protect it.
IP may take the form of:
• Brands, names, logos, slogans, web domains, social media accounts
• Documents, music, websites, artwork, video recordings
• Unique 2D and 3D objects, patterns and designs
• Technologies, formulations and processes
These can be protected through the main four intellectual property rights (IPRs)... trade marks, copyright, design rights and patents.
IP also includes all the key knowledge and expertise that makes a business tick. Things like: client databases, confidential knowledge, agreements with suppliers and distributors, R+D...
IPRs can protect these kinds of things too - in the form of myriad agreements and contracts. The question for businesses is: have they evaluated their IP, and is it protected?
2. Being IP savvy gives businesses genuine competitive advantage
But, it works both ways.
A plus about businesses being blasé about IP, is astuteness gives competitive advantage. Whilst it is cynical to capitalise on the weaknesses in others' IP protection... businesses can (and do).
Businesses might pip competitors to the post by:
• Registering key trade marks, logos and slogans in international markets
• Registering the pattern for 2018's new fashion, and demand royalties for the design
• Ring-fence field their critical knowledge and expertise using NDAs and confidentiality
Good IP moves are always good business moves. An early appreciation of IP can set businesses apart from their competitors - in real terms.
3. Investing in IP protection makes businesses more money in the long run
One of the issues businesses =have with coming to terms with their IP needs - is that it costs money to protect.
For businesses who are unfamiliar with IP (and it's value to businesses) it can be quite daunting.
But, protecting IP makes businesses more money in the long run. It should be seen as an investment.
Ownership of IP can give you a source of income through licensing and franchising. (Consider how much Manchester United make through their merchandising...)
IP registration can also form part of the R+D process - which may result in tax credits.
Finally, registration of IPRs secure a business' intangible assets in a enforceable way. This means the key: brands, ideas, products and services the business relies upon - are not at risk.
It's no surprise that IPRs has been directly linked to business growth.
Sound IP strategy forms part of the long-term strategy that underpins successful business. Investors recognise this - with IP seen as a big factor in: funding rounds, sales and acquisitions.
4. Being proactive beats being reactive - every time.
Often, companies only act upon their immediate IP needs.
Putting one fire out at a time is not recommended. It costs more time, effort and money.
Focusing upon needs on an ad hoc basis is more "reactive" than "proactive. Doing so means businesses lose sight of the bigger picture - as they focus on rolling with the punches.
This approach always ends up costing more time and money than devising a long-term strategy.
For example, it's much more expensive and difficult to protect a unregistered logo through passing off. If it were registered as a trade mark - this would be incredibly straight forward.
Best practice is to get comprehensive knowledge of your IP needs before they become urgent. This is because your main priorities, needs and risks are different for each business.
In truth there are many more things than businesses need to know about IP.
A considered, forward-thinking approach can help businesses make serious strides toward their future. Remember: IP is what makes your business - your business.
1. Every business has an abundance of IP. In every case, IP is what makes business stand out from each other – and shouldn’t be underestimated.
2. Understanding IP early can be a difference maker when it comes between a business and it’s competitors.
3. Intellectual property registration is an investment. Time and again it will make you more money than it costs to protect it (so long as you do protect it).
4. It’s important to be proactive and make sure you’re comprehensively protected before your priorities become problems.
Elizabeth M Ward
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