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The competitive and fast-changing business environment is posing new challenges for all businesses. An effective tool in combating these challenges is the development of an intellectual property (IP) strategy.

Although it sounds complex, an IP Strategy is simply a plan detailing how a business will use IP rights and knowledge to help achieve its objectives, by developing its intangible assets and reducing risk.

Managed well, IP can be a powerful tool.

For instance, it can help with attracting and retaining customers, improving margins, increasing productivity, competing more effectively in the market, or securing a deal with a partner or distributor.

Is IP Strategy relevant to me?

IP Strategy is relevant for all businesses because it secures and leverages your intangible assets, ensuring that you can continue to enjoy the benefits of your competitive advantage.

Many businesses have never considered how IP rights are relevant to them and whether better outcomes could be achieved by controlling and leveraging those rights.

The process of developing an IP Strategy is also an opportunity to reassess your existing assumptions and critically evaluate your business.

Businesses that will find an IP strategy particularly beneficial include:

  • Existing businesses investing in R&D and new product development. These businesses need to be able to identify their outputs and make informed decisions.
  • Established or emerging exporters. These businesses are exposed to new and variable threats as they encounter new markets, unfamiliar legal considerations and different competitors.
  • Businesses commercialising a new product or innovation. These businesses are often creating a new market segment, disrupting an existing market, or competing with an established market leader. This can bring them onto the radar of the incumbents, who are only too willing to leverage their market dominance to squeeze out the new player.
  • Businesses that are raising money to help start or grow a business. Investors want assurance that a business can operate without infringement risk, and that they own the assets critical to the business’s growth.
  • Businesses looking to generate passive income by licensing their innovations to third parties for commercialisation. These businesses must have control and ownership of their IP rights in order to leverage them in licensing deals.
  • Businesses looking to pivot or redefine themselves to compete in a changing environment.
    Basically, any business looking to maximise return on investment and improve its chance of success.

What does an IP Strategy involve?

The scope and scale of an IP Strategy is limited only by a business’s goals and its willingness to commit.

There’s no one-size-fits all approach, but that means that you can easily and cost effectively develop an IP Strategy to meet your business’s needs.

An IP strategy may include:

  • Integrating and embedding IP thinking into your overarching business strategy.
  • Identifying early what IP is owned or generated in your organisation and how it will sustain or grow your business.
  • Identifying and capturing your IP in a timely and systematic way. This will help with identifying and controlling your IP.
  • Considering timing of disclosure of innovations and when to make decisions. Confidentiality can mean the difference between securing certain IP rights or not.

How do I develop an IP Strategy?

Knowing how to start is often the hardest part of the process.

Initially it pays to talk to someone with experience developing and implementing an IP Strategy, who can answer your questions and reassure you that the investment of time and effort is justified.

This may be other business owners and leaders, or an IP advisor with proven strategic experience.

The Innovation IP® program is a useful tool for getting started with IP Strategy.

An IP professional will start by gaining an understanding of your business perhaps by talking with key team members, learning about the business’s history and growth, understanding future business plans and goals, and touring premises.

What is Innovation IP®?

Innovation IP®, is a two-stage programme that Callaghan Innovation part-funds in which businesses work with an IP professional to create and implement a bespoke IP Strategy.

During Stage one, businesses build on their knowledge of IP rights and learn how they can be managed to achieve the defined business goals. They identify their key IP assets and develop an IP strategy that aligns with their business strategy. During Stage two, businesses implement the strategy.

Where can I find out more?

James & Wells is an approved provider for both Stage 1 and Stage 2 provider of the Innovation IP® programme – see our website www.jamesandwells.com for more details.

By David Macaskill

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