Having been an Intellectual Property (IP) adviser for many years now, the first question people often ask is ‘What is IP?’ With the many types available, from trade marks and registered designs, to copyright and patents, it’s not surprising that many businesses are unaware which specifically applies to them.
IP can also come in the form of ‘intellectual assets’ such as specialist knowledge, company manuals and technical expertise; to put it simply Intellectual Property can be a business’ most profitable asset.
It’s your innovation, your USP, your niche in the market – your company name, website, brand and more. In order to gain maximum commercial benefit from your IP, you must protect it. Every element of IP is a company asset and can be bought, sold, given away, licensed etc. and therefore should be taken account of on the balance sheet.
The risks of not protecting your IP are vast; factories abroad could copy your products, services and even your brand. Everything that you’ve worked hard on to build and develop over the years can be damaged or taken away in an instant.
Those companies that protect and understand how to utilise their IP, can gain a significant competitive advantage especially in the current economic climate. While there are costs involved in protecting most forms of IP, there are some categories which are free, e.g. copyright.
So how does a business know which form of IP is for them? Seeking expert advice, conducting an audit or undertaking training is a time and cost-efficient way to learn everything you need to know about IP and what is relevant to your business.
IP protection should be playing a vital role in every company’s business strategy; here are a few useful tips to remember:
- Regardless of what a business provides it will be using and creating IP
- Seek professional impartial advice to identify the most appropriate form of IP for your business
- Conduct an IP audit to identify gaps in your IP strategy and address any imbalance
- Save costs by checking the trade mark database to see what is already registered