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Intellectual Property: Is IP relevant to your business & should you do something about it?

November 30, 2020

Ian Sterritt
Senior Innovation & Growth Advisor
Whether rapidly growing and needing to ration shareholder investments or bootstrapping your self-funded Start-Up the challenge is no different; what is the point of spending lots of hard-earned cash on attorneys and registration fees? 

Without a clear idea how IP fits in your business strategy you are either wasting money or, worse, could fall foul to some ‘left of field’ unforeseen issue undermining the whole business (10 years of effort down the pan?).For some businesses, it is straight forward.  IP is at the core of what they do and how they do things. Biotech, medical device companies know patent processes very well.  But this can also apply to software developers; anyone whose most critical business assets are intangible.

If you license technology (either as a provider or rely on someone else’s) then IP (patents, copyright etc) should already figure high in your business model.  But, you would be surprised how many businesses don’t think they own IP when in fact just about every business does and things can unravel pretty quickly if you ignore it.

It is not all expensive and legalistic.  There are some forms of IP that are free and some you automatically own.  That does not make them any less valuable.  Take Google, for instance, their most important intellectual asset is undoubtedly their algorithm.  They keep control not by registering it but by limiting access on a need to know basis. 

We never get to see the algorithm when submitting our web search; requests are received by Google, the algorithm applied, and the result sent back.  It is a Trade Secret. Trade Secrets are not registered (otherwise it would not be secret!). 

Their status is underwritten internationally in legislation across Europe, the USA and China.  A Trade Secret has costs already accounted for in its creation and ongoing maintenance.  The value is in the secrecy. The IP Strategy is to guard access to it. Many businesses have Trade Secrets but never give them a second thought (you do lock the factory gates don’t you)?

Building an IP Strategy for any business starts with knowing what intellectual assets you have and use, particularly those aligned with your competitive advantage (USP).  For instance, the name of the company, your brand is an intellectual asset.  You will spend loads of time and marketing investment creating and fostering that vital brand reputation. How do you ensure someone is not stealing your company’s clothes, parading as your business, ‘passing off’?

Registering a Trade Mark is one of the most straightforward and legally sound actions every business should have in place.  Think of this as the title deeds for your brand.  It is simple to do online and is one of the most basic elements of any IP Strategy.  Other stuff to consider include copyright, registering a design, managing IP in other countries, building a franchise and licensing, knowing how to deal with competitive threats (infringements). 

It all can sound very complicated but, to rest at night there is no better time than the present to get something done about it.  If you want to maintain that competitive edge don’t put off your IP Strategy!

If you would like help understanding or creating an IP Strategy just drop us a line.  We’ll be glad to show you how to identify your IP and decide what to do, direct you to relevant resources, guide you to build your own IP Strategy, or hands-on develop it with you.

November 27, 2020
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