Intellectual Property is a key business asset that is rarely managed with the importance that it deserves in most companies.   By managed, I mean having a system or process in place to make consistent, well reasoned decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.   Imagine the fallout if your business did not have an HR policy or a purchasing procedure.  You’d have a mess on your hands.  Well it’s the same result for companies without an IP strategy.

Why do so many companies ignore the importance of their Intellectual Property?  I believe it’s because the value of intellectual property is often misunderstood.  Most companies think that just having patent or trademark protection is enough to constitute an adequate intellectual property strategy.  This is a very narrow-sighted notion that can lead to lots of IP assets with little value to the overall business and many important assets being overlooked all together.

What can your company do to begin treating IP as an important business asset?

1)  Get educated.  You need to understand what types of intellectual property protection are available to your business.  The four key types are patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret.  For some recommended reading to start with, check out the website for the United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov, for basic information on patents and trademarks.  Copyrights are registered with the Library of Congress at the US Copyright Office.  Their website is www.copyright.gov.  The World Intellectual Property Organization has a good overview of trade secrets at http://www.wipo.int/sme/en/ip_business/trade_secrets/trade_secrets.html.

2)  Then ask yourself, what do I want my IP to do for my business?  Put another way, why should my business spend money, time and effort on IP protection?  Knowing “why” is the key to IP management success.  It keeps you on track by giving you a direction. 

Your IP can benefit your business in several ways, including (but not limited to): 

                – Carving out a niche in a crowded market;

                – Establishing yourself as a leader in a new market;

                – Setting up a revenue stream through licensing; and

                – Keeping out the competition.

Only you know which “why” is right for your business.  The “why” you come up with should reflect your company’s business goals, values, and philosophy. 

3)  Once you know why you want to pursue IP protection, then it’s time to figure out how to get it.  What steps do you need to take to achieve your IP goals?  That could mean finding a good patent attorney, drafting a new non-disclosure agreement, or adding the right copyright notice to your marketing material.  Or it could mean something more fundamental like, how do we create a culture within our organization that values IP?  How are we going to manage our IP going forward so that we maximize its benefits?  Whatever steps you take, they should be personal to your organization and reflect your own culture.

These 3 steps set a basic foundation upon which an organization can build the framework for good IP Management.  Once you’ve decided what you should do and why, some other key ideas to consider for IP success include:

–  Putting the right person in charge of overseeing your intellectual property;     

–  Creating an Intellectual Property Policy that speaks to your organization; and

–  Setting up a process by which your organization can make timely, budget-friendly IP decisions.

Remember that it’s important to make sure that your IP management system operates in conjunction with and complement the other parts of your business.  Make sure that your system reflects who you are as an organization and what you want to accomplish.  I look forward to helping guide you through the process of establishing the right IP management system for your organization.

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