Intellectual property (IP) represents a tremendous source of value for businesses that can either go entirely wasted or prove a goldmine if properly managed. Unfortunately, too many small businesses fail to create an IP strategy to take advantage of this value. Many startups will choose to forego IP protection, believing that their scarce dollars are better spent elsewhere on areas that might seem to more directly impact growth and revenue. But this position fails to understand that intangible assets like IP are equally important to anything else within your business. Having a sound IP strategy is crucial to long-term success in any industry.
Most tech companies, and any other business for that matter, are built upon and derive their value from their intellectual property. Having a properly-managed IP portfolio is a sure way to increase a company’s valuation. For those unaware of how to get the most of a company’s IP, here are some steps to take to leverage IP.
The first step to taking advantage of your company’s IP is to understand what IP you have. In order to have a full understanding, sit down to systematically go through everything created by you and your employees have created that might be eligible for protection. If you are unsure about what might qualify using tools like Traklight’s ID your IP that will create a personalized report listing all the potential IP you own and how you can secure it is a good step.
Once you understand the type of IP that your business has, you have to determine the proper type of protection that it requires to meet your needs and goals. Registering all of your valuable IP can be expensive, but it has a long-term benefit in ensuring the work and ideas foundational to your business are owned entirely by you and are protected against infringement or theft. IF you find yourself unsure about how to file for the right kinds of IP protection, consulting with an IP attorney is a worthy investment of time and money to do things right the first time.
Many businesses make the mistake of forgetting or ignoring their IP once they’ve taken the step of registering it. But it is important to remember that your IP portfolio can grow and expand, that your procedures on handling IP may become outdated, or that the protection they do have on their IP may require documentation to renew it. In addition to periodic reviews of IP, it’s useful to check your IP protocols to make sure that they are up-to-date to meet your requirements.
As your business expands, you have to account for all of the additional people that come into your employ in so many ways, including IP. As knowledgeable as you may or may not be in the area of IP, others might not have any knowledge. Forming a plan to educate employees on IP and its importance, how to protect it, and how to avoid losing or disclosing IP secrets when dealing with third parties should be a part of your training process.
One of the best ways to avoid losing IP and trade secrets is to limit the access to that information to those who need to know. As businesses grow and develop, employees and contractors will come and go, and while you should have language on IP ownership and disclosing sensitive information in employment agreements, limiting access to IP to those who need it for their work is an effective means of limiting potential damage in the case that anyone should break those agreements.