“Where do I start?” 4 Things Growing Businesses Need To Know About IP
It goes without saying that well looked after IP is critical for today’s businesses.
Whether it’s your: brand, designs, patents or creative ideas…. Business is now built on ideas. Losing your big idea, or having it copied can be devastating.
And it happens all the time.
Most businesses understand this (or learn pretty quickly as they grow!)
But once it does becomes clear, the next question is; “where do I start”?
Here’s 4 things you need to know about IP:
4 Things You Need To Know About IP
1. You already have IP
You might not think so, but your business has tonnes of IP.
Businesses tend to underestimate or even, deny it altogether. But every single business has IP. It 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
You can protect these kinds of things through the main four intellectual property rights (IPRs): trade marks, copyright, design rights and patents.
But wait, there’s more!
Intellectual property also covers all of the important knowledge and expertise that makes your business tick – and stand out from competitors.
Things like: client databases, confidential knowledge, agreements with suppliers and distributors, any research and development you’re doing, and much more.
Essentially any special knowledge, relationships, behaviours and expertise within a business can also be considered IP – and can be protected in different ways.
IP is everywhere in your business. If not protected, you risk letting people have a free pass at copying what it is that makes you, you.
2. Being IP savvy can give you a genuine competitive advantage
But, it works both ways.
A good thing about businesses being blasé about intellectual property – is becoming familiar with your own IP can offer serious competitive advantage.
Whilst it would be a perhaps cynical to capitalise upon the weaknesses of competitors’ IP protection… you could.
You might… steal a march on competitors by registering your key trade marks, logos and slogans in international markets. So long as you fulfil the requirements and use the marks correctly no one else can without a license or other agreement in place.
You might… register the design pattern for 2018’s hot new fashion design (maybe a watermelon print?) Then everyone would have to pay to get in on the craze and acquire a license to use your design.
You could ringfence business critical knowledge using NDAs and confidentiality. This ensures people who come into contact with key info (employees, suppliers, others) don’t share business sensitive info.
Or you could even… register a key technology or process in your area as a patent. This announces the invention publicly, but also gives you 25 years of exclusive use before it expires. Again, if people wanted to use it, they would have to pay for the privilege.
Good IP moves are often good business moves. The right attitude toward IP can set you apart from your competitors.
3. Investing in IP protection will make you money in the long-run
There are a number of ways that investing in IP can generate cash flow for your business. Over the course of time this tends to far outstrip the cost of protecting IP in the first place.
As hinted to above, ownership over certain IP can give you an incredible source of income through licensing and franchising.
Consider your favourite football team and all of the different merchandise you can buy that include their colours and badge.
In each case, the team has simply licensed manufacturers the brand assets to produce goods (like shirts, mugs, calendars and everything else!)
What’s more, these manufacturers pay a negotiated amount for the privilege!
The same can be said of designs and patents (did you know that smartphone producers like Apple – have to pay their competitors when they use patented features and technology?)
IP registration can also form part of the R&D which may be eligible for tax credits; and has been linked to business growth.
Registration of IPRs secure a business’ intangible assets in a meaningful way. So, it’s no surprise that registration of IPRs has been directly linked to business growth. A sound IP strategy tends to be part of the kinds of long-term strategy that underpin successful business. Investors recognise this too – with secure IP a big factor in funding rounds, sales and acquisitions of businesses.
These are all ways that protected IP can pay for itself, many times over.
4. You need to be IP proactive, not reactive
Companies often only act upon their immediate IP needs. For example, business is booming and there’s a risk other pretenders may look to make money an increasingly popular company name.
So you register the name as a trade mark – meaning if it does happen you can sue infringers and get them to stop. But, where else might you be at risk?
Putting one fire out at a time is not recommended.
Focusing on needs on an ad hoc basis is more “reactive” than “proactive”. And doing so means you often lose sight of the bigger picture – as you focus on rolling with the punches.
What’s even more “reactionary” is simply reacting to problems that occur as they arise. This always ends up costing more time and money than formulating a considered strategy.
For example, it is much more expensive and difficult to protect an unregistered logo through “Passing Off“, than it would be if you had registered it as a trade mark.
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 and every business.
4 Things You Need to Know About IP – Conclusion:
In truth, there are many more things you need to know about IP if you’re a growing business.
But if there is one message to take away from this article it’s that a considered, forward-thinking can help businesses make serious strides into their future.
- Your business has an abundance of IP that makes it stand out from its competitors.
- Understanding this now can be a difference maker between you and competitors that don’t take it seriously
- Intellectual property registration is an investment. Time and again it makes you money (and shields you from higher costs associated with defending unregistered IP)
- It is important to be proactive to make sure you’re comprehensively protected before your priorities become problems.
“I Know IP is Important, But Where Do I Start?” 4 Things You Need to Know About IP was written by Dr. Martin Douglas Hendry
If you’re looking to find out exactly:
What kind of IP you have
How much it’s worth
What kind of IP you need
How you should protect it
How you should grow it
How you can make money from it
We can help you.
We’re offering a limited number of FREE exploratory IP audit consultations from the 9th to 20th of October, with one of our specialists at either Leeds or at East Side, King’s Cross, London (or even via Zoom video link if you’d prefer.)
Simply: sign up, fill in a quick IP checklist and return it to us before the meeting..
If you’re interested, fill in the form below to register and schedule in; we’ll then send you a mini IP questionnaire to fill in prior to your appointment.
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If you would like to speak to one of our world-class team of intellectual property solicitors, call:
0113 237 9900