IP strategy is a buzz word in our industry today. It sounds nebulous, imprecise, fluffy. So, what is it and why do you need one?
Intellectual property extends well beyond legal rights – it is the intellectual assets of your business. It can be your technology, brand, designs, trade secrets, data, people, development processes, partnership agreements, customer relationships. The list goes on. These are all intellectual assets that contribute value to your business.
IP strategy is your plan for identifying, protecting, managing and leveraging your intellectual assets to deliver your business objectives.
Too often a so-called IP strategy is too limited in focus. We find that many clients jump straight into filing a patent application without asking why, and without considering the boundaries within which that patent application delivers value. Effective strategy is much more involved.
For example, for a company developing groundbreaking technology, an IP strategy is not “filing a patent application”. Effective IP strategy is the process that allows you to identify that a patent application could be filed. It enables you to decide whether to file (and publish) or whether to keep the information confidential. It is the scope within which the patent application is useful – including technology coverage, lifetime, geographic coverage, relevance to your products and partners – and, importantly, it defines the use of that patent application.
For a data company, an IP strategy is not “keeping data confidential”. It is process for identifying the confidential data, and retaining and managing the data.
Once you move outside the boundaries of your strategy you risk failing to achieve your business objective. It is time to review your strategy and update it if necessary.
Equivalent business outcomes can be achieved in different ways; for example, a company requiring exclusivity around a technology might achieve this by filing, having granted and enforcing a patent covering the relevant technology. But equally, the same result might be achieved by keeping the workings of the technology trade secret, or by negotiating exclusive arrangements with suppliers, or by effective marketing campaigns, or by a combination of these and other factors. Effective IP strategy planning identifies these options and selects an appropriate approach based on the risks and benefits of each one.
Commercial landscapes and intellectual assets are not always predictable. Products lose traction, market dynamics evolve, patent applications may be refused, and confidential information may be leaked. These factors don’t mean that your business outcomes need to change, but they may require your strategy to change in order to achieve them. Your IP strategy needs to be reviewed and updated over time to continue to fuel your business.
Effective management of intellectual assets drives value within a business while mismanagement can wipe away value by losing control of them. Having a solid IP strategy and a commitment to its implementation ensures that you stay on track to realise the value of your intellectual assets.
If you would like to find out how we can help you develop your IP strategy to deliver your business objectives, please get in touch.