From innovation to value through IP
Lucy Johnson, partner at HGF Limited and head of the Newcastle office, on the vital issues surrounding intellectual property rights such as patents, trademarks, domain names, copyright and designs
Intellectual property (IP) rights and the identification and use of the protection these rights afford to the intangible assets of an organisation can give significant commercial advantage in a marketplace. Not only can they protect ongoing innovation but also provide a way of demonstrating that innovation to the market, to customers and to potential investors in the product, services or business.
Identifying the value of intellectual property rights such as patents, trademarks, domain names, copyright, designs and know how within any organisation requires an understanding as to why they exist in the first place. Aligning the assets of a business, including both tangible and intangible assets, to the goals and aspirations of the organisation such that the assets underpin the overall strategy of the business, both in the UK and beyond, can go a long way in demonstrating their value.
In beginning to recognise and demonstrate valuable IP within a business, an organisation needs to know what IP exists within it. Once there is an understanding of what IP it has, an alignment of those intellectual property rights with its business goals and commercial aspirations will allow a company to identify which of those assets has value to the organisation and which perhaps do not.
Demonstrating value from the process of recognition and alignment of IP with business goals is best achieved as a continuous and ongoing process as opposed to as a one off exercise. Companies often spend a significant amount of time researching and identifying future opportunities and threats.
In taking time to ensure there is an understanding of how the IP rights will change over time and whether or not the portfolio of IP is geared up for those changes and challenges will ensure the IP rights remain relevant.
This analysis also presents an opportunity to develop new IP rights to support the future opportunities for the business. Identifying changes in the market, in products and new opportunities all present further opportunities to review the value of the IP a company holds to see whether these assets are future proof and held for the right innovations in the right markets.
In determining the right markets in which to protect IP rights, it will generally be necessary to consider the purpose of the IP right in a market. As a decision involving often complex business opportunities this can be a daunting task.
There are many different models by which key markets can be identified but in sticking to three basic principles of enforcement against infringement, revenue protection against competition and potential investment or partnership, a company will generally be able to identify the key markets in which protection from IP rights will be most relevant and valuable.
Often a company which puts together an IP policy based on knowing the information underpinning these criteria will have a sound way to identify the markets in which their IP rights should be held.
With many intellectual property rights such as patents, designs and trade marks being a territorial right, when extending into new markets it will be important for any company to look at what protection is possible within the strategy and the budget they have in order to ensure they are entering the market armed with the correct IP rights. Whilst in most cases deciding which territories to protect IP is somewhat of a forward thinking exercise, it is certainly one that can be helped by the collation of facts around revenues, competition and investment.