Intellectual Property (IP) assets are important to many companies. Proper leverage of IP assets can provide a competitive edge, increase revenue, extend product lines and create an “innovation culture” within the company.
Many people mistakenly believe that innovations are limited to “high tech” companies or those with large research and development groups. However, most companies have IP assets, such as business procedures (both internal and external procedures), customer lists, company brand/identity, innovations developed by company employees and more.
Regardless of the industry or the size of your company, an Intellectual Property Strategy can strengthen your business. It’s never too early to start thinking about this strategy – early planning can accelerate business growth and reduce the risk of future problems.
1. Understand the Different Types of IP Assets. An important first step in developing an IP strategy is to understand the different types of IP assets and how they can strengthen business activities. Copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets are common IP assets. These assets have different levels of protection and varying procedures necessary to protect the asset.
2. Identify Types of IP Appropriate for your Business. A successful Intellectual Property Strategy considers the various types of intellectual property that are a logical “fit” for the company and the business objectives.
3. Define IP Goals. Define goals that support your business objectives. An IP Strategy can support business goals by increasing revenue, creating a competitive advantage, attracting capital investments and positioning the business as an “innovator”.
4. Protect Confidential Information. Every business has confidential and proprietary information that requires proper management. Diligent use of a written Confidentiality/Proprietary Information Agreement is an important method of protecting confidential and proprietary information. This agreement is signed by everyone who has access to confidential/proprietary information, such as employees, contractors, vendors, advisors, investors, board members and prospective customers.
5. Encourage Innovation. Many businesses assume that innovative activities are limited to the research and development group or to personnel with advanced scientific degrees. Although these groups and individuals are important to an IP Strategy, every person in an organization is a potential innovator. Innovations often solve problems or improve an existing product or service. Everyone is capable of identifying solutions, even if developing the solution is not part of their job function.
6. Manage All Innovations. Identifying innovation is a critical step in creating and leveraging intellectual property assets. Implement an innovation disclosure program that allows all personnel to easily prepare and submit descriptions of their innovations. Once submitted, a tracking system monitors the status of every innovation disclosure. This tracking system should identify deadlines, upcoming public disclosures and other activities related to the innovation.
7. Take Action. Be proactive in implementing an IP Strategy and identifying new innovations. Do not limit activities to current products and services – look for unmet needs in related markets and create intellectual property in those areas.
Identifying, developing and leveraging IP assets takes time. Review your current business goals and begin developing an IP Strategy that supports and enhances those goals.