It is important for businesses to manage their intellectual property properly. The following is a 10 step practical guide to implementing a workable IP management strategy:
1. Every employee from the CEO to the shop floor should be aware of the importance of IP to the company and this should be defined in employment contracts wherever applicable.
2. For larger businesses, there should be an individual, department, or Patent Attorney firm charged with preparing and maintaining IP audits, and reporting to the Board.
3. Company-wide IP education programmes could be instituted including accounting, legal, sales, marketing and advertising departments, distributors, R&D departments and any outside consultants. A company wide IP day is a great way to promote brands and technologies and create a culture that promotes lucrative ways to exploit IP.
4. A book value should be placed on any IP owned by the business, and this value should be reported on reasonably regularly.
5. Expiration and renewal dates of all registered IP should be managed. Expiry dates for important patents likely to have a negative impact on core product sales should be clearly enunciated and contingency plans made.
6. Performing independent watching and reporting services in respect of competitor's activities should be considered.
7. Company brands and their proper use should be protected energetically.
8. Royalty payments and both license-in and license-out investigations should be undertaken to ensure that proper royalties are paid and received in respect of any existing licensing arrangements. As surprising as it may sound a large number of firms pay for licenses for technologies that have not been renewed or have lapsed.
9. A full audit of the IP of the business should be undertaken and repeated reasonably regularly. This will ensure that a value is placed on the IP, and it can be graded as to its importance. This can result in the generation of new revenue streams from IP that is not in use or being exploited to its full potential.
10. Seek independent advice from an intellectual property professional in respect of the proper management and enforcement of IP. For example, whether or not to apply for patents, designs or trade marks in other countries, and the ability to do this before expanding product lines and brands into new markets, or before entering into any joint ventures or technology transfers.