I sometimes joke that my IP in Focus Program is a “12 step program for IP Recovery”. The 12 parts all work together to turn an ailing IP portfolio around. In the end, the organization has healthy IP and a custom-made management system ready to be leveraged when the time is right.
In any ‘recovery’ program, the first step is usually admitting that you have a problem. Let’s look at some red flags that indicate that you might have an IP problem.
1. You don’t have any (or not enough) intellectual property assets. You know you should have filed that trademark registration, but you just haven’t gotten around to it. You’ll worry about applying for that patent later. Next time you update the website, you’ll tell the developer to add a copyright notice. If you are putting your IP off today, so you can deal with it tomorrow, you have a problem.
2. No one is minding the store. Someone in your organization will deal with an IP issue when it comes up, but there is no one person designated as the go-to IP guy or gal. This can lead to red flag #3.
3. You put an assistant in charge of your IP. You put someone (an administrative assistant, engineer, property manager) in charge of tracking serial numbers and dates and other administrative tasks, but s/he has no authority to make decisions. This often leads to red flag #4.
4. You have trouble making IP decisions. Your patent attorney calls and sends letters to remind you about upcoming deadlines, but you don’t answer them. This usually happens because the person in charge of IP has no authority to make a decision and can’t get the real decision maker’s attention. Unfortunately, you’ll probably be paying more money to the patent office to file that response because of it. If you are guilty of #2 or #3, then you aren’t making quick decisions and it’s probably costing you.
5. You haven’t thought about your IP in a long time. If you only think about your IP when your attorney comes around, then you aren’t thinking about it enough. And if you’re saying, ‘if my attorney’s not around, why should I think about it?’, then you definitely have a problem.
6. You don’t actively monitor for infringers or search for opportunities. You received your patent and your trademark, and you filed them away. You think to yourself, ‘OK we’ve got our IP in order’, and go on your merry way without a second thought. Stop wasting your money! IP management doesn’t end when your patent is granted. Some people might say that’s when the real work begins. No one wants to go looking for trouble, but there are times that it’s better to find out that you have a problem, or an opportunity, sooner rather than later.
7. You don’t have an IP policy. If you don’t have an IP policy establishing your organization’s rules for controlling the intellectual property, then you are leaving your IP vulnerable to mishandling, misappropriation, and outright theft. Just like other corporate policies, your organization needs to spell out the expectations it has for its employees when it comes to IP. And the only thing worse than not having any rules is having rules and not enforcing them.
So, do you have an IP problem?