Exploiting intellectual property – are you missing a trick?23/04/2015
Over the years, it has become apparent to the team at Mincoffs that many small, yet successful, businesses are not fully utilising or exploiting a very useful asset almost always available to them. Speaking to many business owners we have uncovered a widely held misconception; that only large, multinational corporations with widely identifiable brands can extract the value in their Intellectual Property (IP). Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) exist within almost every business and it can be extremely beneficial to not only identify them, but also to investigate how to exploit them in order to fully maximise their true value and make sure you are not missing a trick.
IPRs come in many forms, which can all become valuable assets if dealt with in the appropriate way. They can include trade secrets, domain names, logos, inventions, designs, business names and many more. The first step should be to identify which potential IPRs exist within your business. You should then take steps to protect those assets in the appropriate ways and establish a simple strategy to deal with them. The most common rights are:
- Patents (protection for inventions);
- Trade marks (relating to the protection of branding);
- Copyright (automatic protection for original, expressive works); and
- Design rights (protection available for the appearance of a product).
Used strategically, a properly organised IPR portfolio can be both a defence mechanism (used to prevent copying by competitors) and a way to obtain a competitive advantage over rivals. The next step should be to consider your options and how to take advantage of the benefits and opportunities available to you. The beauty of IPRs is that they are intangible and can be transferred to any country almost instantly, meaning the opportunities can be endless.
Licence arrangements can open many doors and are certainly something to keep in mind. They can create exciting new options for your business and can allow you to create a new income stream through royalty payments. Options include licensing your IPRs to others in fields of activity that you are not involved with and deriving revenue from territories you cannot reach on your own. For instance, you could design a product here in the UK, manufacture it in China, and sell it in America.
Other benefits of organising your IPR portfolio include:
- A reduced risk of infringing third party IPRs as you will have a greater awareness of what you own;
- A means of protection, allowing you to challenge or prevent any infringing activity from competitors;
- Tax incentives, such as Patent Box and research and development tax credits; and
- An identification of valuable business assets that can be used in a sale or investment opportunity.
Once you have identified the IPRs within your business and the options available to you, another crucial step is understanding their value so you can fully exploit your position. Do you know if you are paying (or charging) the right amount for the use of IPRs? Are you maximising your assets to their full potential to achieve the best price in a sale?
IPR valuation is notoriously difficult so expert advice is a must. Having a good idea of the value of your IP can allow you to make more informed decisions and can put you in a better position when negotiating if you can truly justify its value.
The benefits of understanding and exploiting your IPRs speak for themselves. The Commercial Team at Mincoffs Solicitors can work with you to identify, protect and organise your IP. We can help you establish a strategy that will allow you to maximise this increasingly valuable asset to help position your business for success in today’s challenging and competitive business landscape.
Whether you are a fledging business start-up or a large established organisation, our Commercial Team, headed by partner Antony Hall, will work closely with you to gain an understanding of you and your business. Antony is singled out as an IP practitioner of note by both Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500, being described as “tenacious and meticulous, who works hard to protect the client’s interests” and as having “a strong understanding of the subject matter and a good deal of technical acumen.”