There's never a bad time to address and mitigate any of the potential risks that your business faces, but the new year is a particularly apt time for most people to reassess where their attentions and efforts have gone and where they should go in the coming months. It's a chance for all of us to do better and correct the mistakes of the past, and for businesses, it should provide an opportunity to gain a handle on that most vital part of any company's past, present and future: intellectual property.
One of the biggest problems a company faces is failing to identify all of its intellectual property. It can be easy to dismiss such a concern, given how far your business has come thus far without said IP, but those intangible assets represent the hard work and creativity of your company as well as the future growth that you hope to achieve. A periodic assessment of the new ideas your company is working on and what they represent as far as intellectual property assets can help to prevent these valuable intangible assets from being lost in the shuffle.
Protecting your IP is another crucial step in eliminating unnecessary IP risks in your business. It's hard to overstate the importance of protecting the work that makes up the backbone of any business, yet there remain far too many instances of companies that find themselves entangled in an ownership mess when it comes to patents, trademarks and copyrights. IP protection is best done as soon as possible, so even if your startup remains on a shoestring budget, setting aside the time and effort to file the necessary paperwork to protect your IP is an investment in your company's future, and sidesteps potential headaches down the line.
One unconsidered risk that businesses often fail to consider is infringing upon the IP of others. It can be tempting to use ignorance as a defense —how can you infringe upon someone else's inventions if you've never seen them, after all— but that tact won't hold up if you do find yourself having infringed upon the intellectual property that belongs to another. As confident as you might be that your latest idea is entirely unique and never before though of, take the extra time to do a search of the relevant databases to see if there are already existing patents or trademarks before you spend considerable effort and resources trying to build a product and company that isn't viable.
IP can seem like an unpleasant chore in the face of an overwhelming pile of responsibilities, but recognizing its importance allows you to make it a priority and give it the attention that it needs if you want to maintain the health of your company.