Your business is likely to own valuable IP, but have you properly considered this area and how it can impact on your export planning.
- Have you got a innovative product?
- Have a product that has ‘eye appeal’?
- Rely on brand reputation (the quality of your goods and services?
- Have a web site, rely on bespoke software, images, plans, drawings?
- Have trade secrets or knowhow that makes you different?
If you have answered to any of the above then you are relying in some way on IP as all of the above are just a few areas that come under the umbrella of IP.
Your knowledge assets need to identified and this can be done through an internal review (as long as you know what you are looking for). Once this done then you need to consider strategic protection. Registered rights are territorial and so consideration to strategic protection based on markets, manufacturing sites and even where potential investors and your competition are located could form part of the thinking.
From a UK perspective there are a number of rights you can register both in the UK and overseas and these are:
- Trade marks – names, shapes, colours, strap lines logos are some of the common areas that are protected;
- Registered designs – this in simple terms protects the look of a protect;
- Patents – this can protect innovation subject to a number of tests;
Other important rights include:
- Copyright – This an automatic right in the UK and can protect software, images, plans logos, drawings and lots more……
- Trade secrets – secret formulas, recipes and are long lasting as long as they are kept secret;
- Confidential information – this could include pricing strategies, customer lists to name a few;
It is important to include owners of IP when entering into contracts with third parties such as:
Employees, suppliers, consultants, partners, government, customers etc.
The management of the IP within your business should be formulated into a strategy and this should align with your business plans. You can consider using your IP as a KPI as one mechanism to measure the success of your business.
Why should you think about your IP
If you intend to export you should really consider looking at this vital area of your business. The benefits of identifying and strategically managing these assets include:
- Help protecting your value proposition – when strategically protected they can act as a barrier helping prevent competitors entering the market;
- Improve the internal management of the business (you cannot manage what you don’t measure);
- Demonstrates management competence to external stakeholders;
- Managed effectively they can potentially generate income streams ‘while you sleep’;
- Sell knowledge assets that are no longer needed;
- Better place you to enforce your rights if and when necessary;
- Support applications for finance.
Where to start
A list of things every business should do as a minimum.
- Undertake freedom to operate searches to ensure not infringing a third parties rights inadvertently.
- Ensure you conduct trade mark and other searches in territories you intend to trade in.
- Ensure to discuss assignment of rights when your business commissions third parties to create work covered by copyright for example logo’s, photo’s drawing’s, plan’s, web site etc.
- Identify an IP professional as soon as they can. You don’t need to instruct them but you know where to find them quickly.
- Build up your own knowledge of intellectual property. Why not arrange for us to deliver training!
- Include the businesses IP in business plans, marketing collateral and investment pitches.
- Keep confidential information secret (and not use password123).
- If the idea can be patented you should not disclose (without a robust NDA) until your patent has been filed.
- Create an IP Strategy.
- Strategically protect IP. Do they really need to globally protect their brand name?
- Include IP into contracts, T&Cs and contracts of employment.
IP can play an important role in your business growth and ignoring this area until you are forced in some way to deal will an issue can be expensive, time consuming and reputation damaging.
If you look at any of the major businesses in your sector, they will all have IP strategies, if its good enough for them then it should be good enough for you.