It starts out fairly innocently.  You’re a start-up: 2 people with a great invention.  You want to protect that invention, so you call a patent attorney.  The patent attorney drafts and files a patent application and your company is off and running.

You start selling a product with a snazzy name, so you get some trademarks.  Your company is successful.  You grow.  You invent more.  You call your patent attorney more often.

Before you know it you’ve got 20 employees, some great products, and a small intellectual property portfolio.  And this is where you fall into a trap.

The trap is thinking what you have been doing to protect your IP is enough.  The trap is thinking ‘we invented, we patented, so we’re done’.  It’s the idea that all you need to do to create a strong IP portfolio is get the patent or register the trademark.  Like that’s all there is to it.  But there is so much more.

This is not a trap you want to fall into.  Protecting your IP is not an event, like ‘We got the patent.  Check that off the list.’  Getting the patent is the tip of the ice berg.

There’s a lot more to creating a successful IP portfolio than just securing patents and trademarks.  In fact, capturing your intellectual property is just 1 (out of 12!) component for maintaining a strong IP portfolio.  It’s actually #5 on my list!

So how do you avoid the trap?

The best way is to build a strong foundation for managing your intellectual property assets so that you can increase the return on the investment your making would be a good place to start.  (IP is a business asset that needs to be managed, remember?)

How do you build a strong foundation?  Implement the first 4 components of the IP in Focus IP Management System.

1.  IP Administration, Organization, and Budget.  At the start, you should decide what role IP will play in your company.  What do you want it to do for you?  What is the organization willing to do and who within the organization needs to do it in order to build a strong, successful IP portfolio?  How much are you willing to spend to make that happen?  You need to set goals, establish rules, and put the proper team together to make sure those goals are met.

2.  IP Reporting and Communications.  IP progress or setbacks must continuously be communicated to anyone in your organization that needs to know.

3.  IP Education.  You need to continuously tell your employees why intellectual property is important to you and your business.  Your employees need to understand what role they play in the IP process, and the rules they are expected to follow.  (Don’t assume they know.)

4.  IP Auditing.  You need a behind-the-scenes process that continuously identifies your intellectual property no matter where it resides in the company.

At some point, you need to move from merely capturing your IP to managing it.  Why?  Being more proactive allows you to get the most return on your investment in your intellectual property.

Capturing your intellectual property will always be important, but just capturing it will only get you so far.  As you grow your business, you need to change your behavior and approach your IP differently.

Be more proactive. Set IP goals, rules, and expectations, then work diligently to accomplish them.