Intellectual Property Strategy

This short article will show you how to develop a strategy for your Intellectual Property, your IP, to capitalise your assets and reduce operational risks and costs. Specifically, we’ll show you how to

1 integrate IP into your strategic plan

2 manage IP assets to grow your business

3 recruit and manage your IP advisors

Hello my name’s Clive Bonny. I’m an independent Strategy Advisor for Clean Growth UK supporting early-stage enterprises and high growth businesses.

This short article will show you how to develop a strategy for your Intellectual Property, your IP, to capitalise your assets and reduce operational risks and costs. Specifically, we’ll show you how to

1 integrate IP into your strategic plan

2 manage IP assets to grow your business

3 recruit and manage your IP advisors

So first let’s look at building your IP strategy

You may have heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail”

It’s really important for any business, even start-ups, to have a written plan. Your customers, suppliers and staff need to know what you want to achieve, your strategy to reach your goals, and your resources to ensure success.

Analysing your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats will help identify strategic IP priorities. For example, strengths will include what makes you different and gives you an edge over competitors. If your brand has visual uniqueness or innovative processes these can be registered and protected.

Another strategic framework is PESTLE This identifies threats and opportunities caused by Political Economic Social Technological Legal and Environmental factors. For example, a pandemic may require extra IP policies and procedures for home-worker data protection. Emergency options like this need to be ready-made in your business continuity plan.

Every year UK firms apply for over 100,000 trademarks and designs with 90% success rate. Trademark applications start at £170 for 10 years protection. UK design applications start at £50 for 5 years protection. If you’ve paid a designer to create a website or a logo you can register and protect your IP brand ownership.  Most designers don’t mention these important options and it’s up to you to ask.

So when you review your business plan, always include your IP needs and costs

Point number 2 managing your IP assets

It’s important to have a defensive strategy in place. I often see inadvertent infringements of third-party copyrights, patents, trademarks and designs. Emergency reparations can be costly and time-consuming, So have procedures in place in advance to manage the damage.

It’s helpful if you’re on automatic IP database alerts for possible infringements and do monitor all your IP registrations and renewal dates  

Regularly check possible infringers on Google. Copycats of popular products are all over public marketplace sites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy.

Ready-made pro-active procedures can deal with infringements of your own IP. These can include templated cease and desist letters and contact details of third-party mediators to accelerate dispute resolution. 

Another strategic opportunity is to explore licencing and franchising. I see far too many products and services in localised markets when they have the potential to reach national and international markets at very low cost. Proof of ownership should be shown to licence and franchise products and services

To prove my point the UK employs over half a million people in design occupations. Architects, engineers, manufacturers, retail packaging, fashion and craft trades. But less than 10% of UK designers register their IP. Yet over 80% of those who do have registered designs are exporting with significantly higher profits. That’s why private equity investors and Dragons Den always look at IP ownership. No IP ownership means more competitors and lower returns on investment.  

Designers who work with IP advisors like myself can widen their client base and improve their customer retention. If you have IP ownership then your clients can’t ask your competitors to make your registered design cheaper.  

So overall IP asset management requires integration into your business plan with both defensive and pro-active actions.

Third and finally how do you recruit and manage IP advisors?

There is a saying “Horses For Courses” and one person may not suffice. If you require international registrations then advisors based in different legal jurisdictions may be needed.

Patents require technical experts in the subject matter and applications can take years to process. Of 20,000 UK patent applications every year only 1 in 3 are granted by UK IPO and renewal costs increase every year. It’s worth talking to university R and D specialists as many offer subsidised support and access to public funds. You may be asked to share IP and equity.

Trademarks and designs are best registered by qualified advisors. I’ve seen many untrained applicants lose their application fees by omissions and errors in searches, trade classes and narrative descriptions.

Recruit your IP advisor like a key worker. Use linkedin to check their professional qualifications and accreditations; ask for three written references with client feedback for similar work; get a written quote with outcomes and timings to full completion. I see too many quotes which omit costs for handling oppositions, admin and ongoing fees.

After all you’re giving this person your keys to assets which control your business sustainability. To summarise strategic IP asset management should

1 Integrate IP into your business plan

2 Apply defensive and pro-active IP strategies

3 Use qualified affordable advisors with proven track records

Thanks for your interest!

Clive@consult-smp.com