Intellectual Property (IP) is the most valuable asset of many businesses. Follow these IP Top Tips to ensure you have your IP bases covered and to position yourself to drive value from your IP:
1. Think about IP early
Resources and finances are always stretched in the early stages of any business. But it is critical not to ignore management of your intellectual property. Early errors in IP management, such as public disclosure, IP contamination and loss of control of your IP, can jeopardise your business model and business valuation. Speak to a patent attorney at an early stage to help avoid these problems.
If you have any nagging concerns about your previous actions flag them to your patent attorney immediately. It can be easier to navigate problems if they are addressed sooner rather than later.
2. Develop an IP strategy before committing to IP assets
It is important to develop an IP strategy before jumping in and spending cash on specific IP rights. This gives you confidence in the actions you take and any investment you make in IP.
Work with your patent attorney to identify your business’ key intellectual assets and how they support your business. You can then make decisions on how best to protect and leverage your assets in a way that underpins your business model and drives value in your business.
Remember, different IP approaches can achieve the same business objective. So be realistic and choose an approach to IP that you are comfortable with. Be clear about what you are doing and why. This will give you confidence in your IP spend and any actions you take.
3. Clearance check your brand
Being forced to re brand due to trade mark infringement can be a marketing disaster. Run a freedom to operate search on your brand before launch. We recommend extending your search internationally to reduce the risk of infringement when you expand overseas. Once you are clear, register your domain name, trade mark and social media accounts.
4. Fix IP ownership issues immediately
It is critical to be able to demonstrate a clean chain of ownership of your IP assets. If you cannot prove that you own your IP assets, then it is difficult to attribute any business value to them. The uncertainty also raises questions around who the rightful owner is and whether your business has the right to use the IP at all. Uncertainty around IP ownership can be complicated to resolve and can terminate a deal.
You need to be able to identify: What is the IP? Who created it? When, and in what circumstances? Under what agreement? And can you prove that the answers to each of these questions results in the IP being owned by your business?
Generally, the default position is that the creator owns the IP, so ensure that arrangements are in place to transfer IP ownership to your business, whether you are dealing with employees, contractors or anyone else.
It is essential to keep clear records against products and projects, have the IP assigned to the company in a formal agreement, and record the assignment of any registered rights (including trade marks, designs and patents) on the official registers.
5. Beware of contamination of IP
Have you included contributions in your products from third party sources? IP contamination can impact your ability to exploit your product and the cost of exploiting it. Both of which can undermine your business model.
For example, open source software may appear to be a cost-effective solution for software developers but be vigilant of the associated licensing obligations. If you must use open source software, record where it is used and the licence terms – you should expect to be asked for this information during any product due diligence. Brainstorming with third parties is another dangerous avenue for IP contamination unless there are clear IP provisions governing those conversations.
If you must introduce third party contributions into your products ensure that you understand the implications and whether these fit your IP strategy and exploitation model.
6. Be committed to IP management
Commitment to your IP strategy is key. Remember, your strategy has been developed specifically to achieve your desired outcomes. When circumstances dictate that you need to deviate from your plan consult your patent attorneys immediately to understand the business implications and options for navigating any potential problems.
Our expert patent attorneys at BOSH IP have considerable experience of advising startup businesses and preparing them for investment. Please contact us for more information on how we can help you cover your IP bases and position yourself to drive value from your IP.