There is no doubt the intellectual property (IP) assets owned, generated or acquired by your business can be vital to its success or failure. A thoughtful IP strategy can help you realize the value of IP assets. For example, your IP assets may generate revenue through the licensing, sale or commercialization of certain protected products or services, as well as significantly enhance the value of your business.
Understanding the role IP plays in your business is an important step in improving your bottom line. Most companies require an individualized IP plan, but the following four steps outline some key considerations in protecting, valuating and leveraging your IP assets:
1. Identity the IP assets you need to sell product.
It is increasingly important to: understand the IP assets that your business needs to brand and sell its products; identify the IP assets your business owns; and identify what IP assets you require. These can include confidential information/trade secrets, trade names, trademarks, domain names, copyright content, and patented products or methods.
For example, let’s say you’ve hired a consultant to develop your marketing campaign, help with branding your products or provide content for your website. It’s important that you understand and designate who owns the rights to the content being generated. Ownership of these types of marketing assets becomes critical when you need to expand on the success of those marketing efforts.
2. Plan to protect and acquire needed IP assets.
To gain some perspective on the need to protect IP, all one has to do is review the latest filings of the dozens of trademark, patent and copyright infringement lawsuits. Some of these thefts have occurred in full view, as the stolen IP had been left unprotected. In other cases the IP was legally protected and still stolen. So, before launching any major branding campaign or product roll-out, it’s important to know early on, how those IP assets will be protected.
Any marketing campaigns with new logos or slogans should begin with a trademark search to ensure that protection is available. And new product features should be also be viewed with an eye towards potential patent protection. Also, just because your IP is legally protected in the U.S., it is — by no means – protected in other countries.
3. Know and evaluate the strength of your competitor’s IP portfolio.
As you evaluate your own IP, it’s critical to know and understand the IP assets of the competition. How have they have been able to leverage those assets for competitive advantage? If patent protection has kept you from developing a competitive product, a better understanding of the protection’s scope may allow you to design around its patented features. Knowing your competitors’ IP portfolios can also enable you to identify weaknesses in their
strategies – and build strengths into your own.
4. Show me the money.
IP assets should always be making you money. If you can’t explain why — or how — a trademark, trade secret, patent, or copyright is making you money, then it’s time to reevaluate its place in your business.
Your trademarks and product branding, patented technology, and copyright-protected content should all have some value in the open market. When planning for the expansion of your business, estimating the revenue generated through the sale or licensing of these IP assets becomes vital to the scope of your growth strategy.
In today’s global, hyper-competitive and information-laden business environment, the primary importance of protecting and fully leveraging IP assets will only increase.
By Seaton Curran, attorney, Howard & Howard