Inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups are always excited about the potential impact that their new idea will have on the market. Some of them, in the rush to market, forget the importance of protecting their intellectual property and run into problems with competitors. Others are too cautious to share their idea in fear that it will be stolen and become overworked trying to do everything themselves – or worse, stagnate, in paranoia.
Creating a solid intellectual property protection plan helps avoid these problems. With a carefully crafted IP strategy, you can build your product and your business with confidence that your intellectual property is well protected.
Why Have An IP Strategy?
Creating a strong and effective IP strategy is important to the success of every business. Savvy startups and entrepreneurs take great measures to ensure their IP strategy is executed properly because IP impacts many areas of business, including product development, marketing, finance, manufacturing, and employment.
Just like any other project, successfully protecting your IP requires effective planning and implementation. You could haphazardly address any IP issue as it comes up, but having a good IP strategy in place will ensure that there is a streamlined process on identifying, protecting, and managing your IP. This will in turn be an efficient use of your time and resources especially when you are focusing on building your business.
What Should Be Part Of The IP Strategy?
Before developing an IP strategy, understand that an IP strategy is a business strategy. IP is intertwined with many facets of your business; so make sure that it aligns with your business goals. When properly managed, your IP can strengthen your company’s objectives, values, and resources.
The first step to any IP strategy is to take inventory. You can’t effectively manage your assets without knowing what assets you have and own. Identify all the intangible assets that your company is producing. Determine what intellectual property you have. Note that not all ideas are protectable under intellectual property law. Even if you do not formally have a patent, copyright, or trademark, you may be able to apply for a patent or register a copyright or trademark in the future. You might even have vulnerable trade secrets without knowing. This might be a good time to get an IP attorney involved to help you with the process. IP is a creature of law, and identifying potential IP assets can quickly get complicated.
The second step is to assess your assets. Not all assets are worth protecting. Fully understand the competitive climate of your business and the advantages that may be gained from your intellectual property. Also know your budgetary constraints. Protecting IP can get expensive, but there are various avenues to choose from. By understanding your market and your budget, you will be able to identify which assets should take priority and what type of IP protection you may want to pursue for your assets.
The third step is to protect your assets. Develop a system for protecting the assets that warrant protection. This would include establishing procedures for creating intellectual property for the company. Determine how the IP will be created and who will be creating it. With the help of an IP attorney, decide on the best type of IP to protect this creation, conduct a thorough search to ensure that there is no claim to your proposed IP, and make the necessary filings. Also, determine if you need to have any contracts in place to ensure the protection of your IP.
Finally, monitor for infringement and enforce your IP rights when necessary. Develop a method on how to detect infringement and how to respond. This might include setting up news or industry alerts, monitoring government IP records, or even scouring the Internet. Determine how you will approach a potential infringer, and be consistent.
Communicate and Review
Once you have an IP strategy in place, make sure to have it documented and communicated with your entire team. Every employee should understand and follow the appropriate steps to maintain your intellectual property rights. If you have the resources, set up a team to ensure that your IP strategy is followed and maintained. Periodically audit not only your IP but also your IP plan to make sure that your IP assets are properly identified, managed, and protected. If your overall business strategy changes, make sure that your IP strategy is tailored to those changes.
The above is just a few important steps to consider when developing your IP strategy. If your budget allows, you should speak with an experienced IP attorney who can outline a full and comprehensive IP strategy for your business. Because IP is so intertwined with the overall business, companies of all sizes should take the time and effort to develop a strong IP strategy. Most entrepreneurs or startups spend lots of time creating and developing a service or product, but they either forget to ensure that their product is protected or overzealously protect their product in fear of theft. Taking the time to develop and implement an effective IP strategy will help avoid any unnecessary problems down the road. Consider it a business investment. A strong IP strategy will have a significant impact on your current and future success.