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Having a documented IP management process, which is rolled-out across your organisation, can add substantial value to your bottom line. Here we present 5 first steps to create a functioning IP management process to help your business identify, capture and protect valuable IP.
There are a number of different ways to develop an IP strategy but until you have one, and until it is clearly communicated to employees, you are fighting a losing battle! There are some simple initial steps that you can take and, once the basics are in place, then you can develop an awareness of IP and its value to your organisation. Initial steps you can follow to formulate an IP strategy should include:
Your organisation will have commercial objectives. You should assess how you can achieve those objectives from an IP perspective. For example, IP can be used to block competing products, generate income from licencing or sale, and attract investment.
As a minimum, you should determine: how often you create new products or brands and how long the life cycle of each product is; whether competitors copy your products; whether your business copies competitor products; and where the ‘value’ is in your IP (e.g., blocking competitors (attack and defence) or actively generating income through licensing, franchising etc.).
You can do this by conducting an IP audit. Look inside the business to capture information relating to what types of IP protection are already in place.
You will also need to develop an understanding of the IP landscape in relation to your business, in terms of your IP and the IP of competitors. Awareness of the IP landscape will enable you to identify potential IP obstacles and develop an IP strategy to address those obstacles.
Once you have identified your organisation’s goals and its IP assets, you will be able to consider how IP may assist a particular strategy or evaluate how valuable a particular IP asset is for your organisation.
Is your IP contributing to revenue or allowing you to charge a higher price than a competitor? Is the IP valuable from a funding point of view?
Once you have undertaken steps 1 to 3, you (and your employees) will be able to clearly identify IP which is central to your business (“core” IP), IP which you may own, but which is no longer needed (“surplus” IP) and any gaps where IP is necessary to further your business strategies. It will also allow identification of whether your strategy is defensive (to avoid or at least reduce IP risks to your business), or offensive (acquiring and/or protecting IP that gives your organisation an advantage over its competitors).
Once you have developed your IP strategy, you can then implement it with the assistance of your employees because they can then clearly see the value of IP to the business and how it relates to generating and maintaining profit and competitive advantage. Until you have the IP strategy rolled out with full visibility, you cannot get your employees on board.
An appropriate IP management framework provides guidance to your employees on effective IP management. It will typically cover things like:
You can encourage creativity within your organisation by building a culture of support for creative thinking and recognition of creative efforts.
It is also important to recognise any employee contributions to innovation. You can reward an employee in a variety of ways including public recognition, awards, gifts or staff development opportunities, as well as direct financial rewards.
Of course, not all ideas are good ideas and even if there are good ideas, they may not be commercialised. If you implement a process to identify, capture and protect ideas, the business will preserve the ideas that can add value to the business.
The process should include a central person or team to whom employees can report innovations they make or solutions to problems they encounter that may be applied more broadly; have a standard form that can be used to explain what the innovation or solution is and how it works; and provide training on IP within the business to increase general awareness.
The most effective methods to stimulate and capture creativity in an organisation are to provide a framework that recognises IP in the business, establish a strong culture of support for creative thinking, provide mechanisms to recognise efforts by employees, allow freedom to explore new concepts, and facilitate regular discussions of IP issues.
To paraphrase a classic one-liner from a great movie: ‘If you build it, they will come’. If you provide the structure and training, your employees will more than likely jump on board!
At Wilson Gunn, we help businesses to protect their valuable intellectual property. For further information about managing your intellectual property get in touch to speak to one of our attorneys.