Intellectual property (IP) is all around us. Every product or service that we use in our daily lives is usually the result of a long chain of big or small innovations, such as changes in designs, or improvements that make a product look or function the way it does today. Take the mobile telephone which has become an essential tool for any business large or small. Patent protection will have been obtained for various technical parts. Its design will likely be protected by industrial design rights. The brand name will be protected by an instantly recognisable trade mark. Advertising and promotional material as well as the instruction manual are protected by copyright.
Regardless of what product an enterprise makes or what service it provides, it is likely that it is regularly using and creating a great deal of intellectual property. For example, almost every business enterprise has a trade name and may have one or more trademarks and should consider protecting them. Many will develop creative original designs. Many will have produced, or assisted in the publication, dissemination or retailing of a copyrighted work. Some may have invented or improved a product or service.
IP in business planning
Forward-looking entrepreneurs and enterprises face the challenge of extracting the latent value of their IP and using it effectively in their business strategy. Companies who recognise the value of their IP and dedicate time and resources to protecting and exploiting their IP assets as part of their business strategy, can increase their competitiveness in a variety of ways and in certain cases can be propelled to a leading role within a particular industry.
When drafting a business plan, consider the following IP related questions:
Does your business have products and services with unique features which should be protected?
Can you use your IP or IP knowledge to improve the competitiveness of your business?
Will market trends or advances in technology affect your business, your IP and your future IP needs?
Are you possibly infringing IP owned by others and leaving your firm open to a costly legal action.
Completing an IP audit questionnaire can provide an additional useful framework on which to plan a business strategy or an IP licensing strategy.
A business which has recognised IP in its planning can benefit by:
· creating a strong corporate identity and a valuable asset through a trade mark and branding strategy;
· enhancing access to venture capital and ease access to financing for R&D, product development etc.;
· enabling profitable licensing agreements to be entered into;
· preventing competitors from copying your company’s products
A company’s intangible assets – ranging from human capital and know-how to inventions, brands, designs and other products of its intellectual creativity and innovation are today, often more valuable than a company’s physical assets. Intellectual property can be a vital ingredient in securing the commercial success of any company wishing to stay ahead of the field in creating innovative new products, expanding market share and generating customer loyalty. It is very much in the interests of business to make best use of their intangible assets by investigating the opportunities offered by the intellectual property system.
· Further useful business orientated content can be found on the webpage of the SMEs Division of the World Intellectual Property Organisation:
· For more information about IP protection, in particular patents, designs, trade marks and copyright, please visit the relevant sections of our website.
· A practical “Good Practice Guide”, which includes 10 pragmatic recommendations for a better integration of Intellectual Property in your business will help increase your awareness and knowledge of IP issues.
Searching IP online
The internet provides a myriad of data sources which allow the non professional user to obtain considerable information about technology, branding (trade marks) and industrial designs using free of charge search engines.
Please be aware that do-it-yourself searching should not be regarded as a complete and comprehensive search. Users are advised that, business decisions should not be made on the basis of these searches alone. It is advisable to have a professional search done (using a registered patent or trade mark attorney) before taking important business decisions.
IP online databases