15 August 2019

The importance of creating a formal IP strategy for your business

In order to safeguard your work, and to work profitably in the future, it is worth considering the importance of creating a formal IP strategy early on to prevent loss of investment and time.

Align IP strategy with business strategy

80% of a business’ value is in its intangible assets. With this statistic in mind, it makes undeniable sense to base the strategic framework of a company around those assets and other IP issues. Trying to segway an IP strategy into your existing business plan may prove a little less than effective, as trying to protect innovation after you have already begun work could leave you vulnerable to finding out someone else was there before you.

It should not be assumed that most businesses have arrived at their current status through ruthless planning; it is far more believable that natural, organic growth has got them to where they are. Therefore, when considering IP strategy, it would make the most sense to start with an analysis of the business’ internal organisation to identify any potential assets that may have been overlooked.

When doing this, it is important to be aware of the different business frameworks you may fall within as they will present different challenges, for example:

  • SMEs – this size of business tends to have better opportunities to integrate a robust IP framework within their business strategy. While growing, it can be easier to adopt policies.
  • Corporates – by this point in their life-span, these businesses could be expansive and ungainly. Due to this, it is vital to have clarity around IP strategy. Either strong in-house IP counsel or an excellent relationship with an external firm is strongly advisable.

Carry out an IP audit

Don’t just include the basics here, such as a schedule of registered intellectual property including patents, trade marks, design registrations and plant variety rights. Think about the things that the audit should help determine, e.g:

  • any unregistered IP rights within the business;
  • gaps in your current protection;
  • any existing risks (internal systems, ownership and conditions of use);
  • any existing opportunities that there is no strategy around – the protection needs could be broader than the current business model; and
  • whether any of your current spend is trying to resuscitate property past its sell-by date.

IP creation

Making sure the right firm, or internal team, is at the heart of your IP creation is invaluable. Growing a business with poor or no IP strategy, or a weak position, may be expensive. You may find your organisation going down the route of trying to protect the wrong things or developing an unprotectable product or, worse still, launching a product that is protected by someone else’s rights, which, down the line, may have to be discontinued.

Investing in any cost-heavy marketing campaign without a clear approach to IP, both your own and other businesses, could be ruinous; think reputation and budget. If you miss out on what could have been a lucrative opportunity due to previously unidentified IP issues, you could live to regret it!

What to do next

Depending on your business, there may be one or several different types of applicable IP, but what needs to be considered is which type(s) of IP will best protect your business model and aspirations. To find out more about what your options are when creating a formal strategy for your intellectual property, why not get in touch with our friendly team today at Mathys & Squire. With experts working across a wide variety of fields, we are able to help you create an ongoing protection plan to keep your IP safe and secure no matter what happens in the future.

A version of this article was published in Entrepreneur & Investor Magazine in April 2020.

Vicki Strachan
Of Counsel