Why an IP portfolio?
Companies often neglect a vital aspect of maintaining and developing their success by failing to protect their intellectual property (IP). A successfully managed IP portfolio has untold positive effects on a business – it can improve and solidify an organisation’s core business and confirm their market dominance. An IP portfolio does not relate solely to the legal aspects of IP rights such as obtaining patents or handling simple copyright issues – all manner of things can be utilised by a company as valuable IP, including all the non-material knowledge that makes up an economic entity’s intellectual capital, such as branding and know-how.
In recent years, with globalisation and the increase in competition between companies looking to expand their market share, many businesses have realised the importance and value of protecting all aspects of their IP, with many companies now having in-house IP teams to handle such issues daily.
In all complex economic organisations, both formal and de facto methods exist for IP protection. In addition to the solutions discussed here, companies should concentrate on perfecting their organisational processes and strategies so as to maintain the competitive advantage that IP protection will provide.
Intellectual Property protection - Formal methods
Formal methods for the protection of IP are legal and include, but are not limited to:
- Obtaining patents for inventions
- Obtaining protections for registered designs
- Obtaining trademarks for brands and related signs
Formal methods are effective in ensuring third-party liability if secured IP rights are violated. Formal methods also carry the full weight of the law behind them, and serve as a deterrent to potential infringements, as well as ensuring remedies if any rights infringements occur. In addition, the boundaries imposed by these methods are clear and standard – it is comparatively easy to know where you stand in relation to your IP when compared with the de facto methods.
Unfortunately for businesses, the costs of using these formal methods to protect IP are often high, due to the legal costs involved in both registering such rights and enforcing them. It is for this reason that small and medium sized companies are often wary of taking action.
Intellectual Property protection - De facto methods
De facto methods are used in the protection of IP which is not covered directly by formal methods, or even IP which can potentially be formally protected but has not been. De facto methods are often utilised in:
- Having stakeholders sign non-disclosure agreements
- Ensuring the continued secrecy of any trade-secrets
- The non-disclosure of any business or sector specific know-how
A prime example of the use of these de facto methods is the Coca Cola company, which has never revealed the secret recipe to its famous beverage, but has it protected as trade secret.
How to use de facto methods
A strategic management system must be instigated by the company with the aim of effectively managing the relevant IP issues. Some simple but effective steps for this management to take in IP protection are:
- Identify the ideas, projects, or other valuable features which the company wishes to protect. This assessment should not be a one-off feature, but rather dynamic, involving constant monitoring.
- Assess the type of property that needs protecting – how would this best be achieved?
- Consideration of the objective outcomes for the business
- Understand of how IP assets perform
- Assess the effects of protection on the business’s finances
It may be useful for a business to implement an automated IP management system, including installed control software, to aid in the support of governance.
Which intellectual property protection methods are right for you?
Before identifying the best protection methods for your IP portfolio, businesses are advised to analyse the suitability of different methods for their IP and their future goals. Issues to examine in determining the right methods of protection for your portfolio include:
- The life cycle of the product to be protected
- The resources available to implement the chosen protection
- The competition of the market
- An assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that derive from implementing protective measures
An IP portfolio, when correctly managed, consigns extensive rights and protections to a business – either through formal methods or practically using de facto methods. Regardless of a business’s nature and size, the protection of key IP assets is fundamental to success in the era of heightened competition and globalisation.