Daily Business Network – January 2012
Jackie Maguire is a founder and the chief executive of Coller IP, which provides a full range of professional IP services from patent and trademark filing to brokering, licensing, valuation, due diligence and legal opinion. She gives her expert advice on intellectual property.
Intellectual property can seem a rather vague and nebulous term, perhaps applicable only to those who make their living from producing inventions. Or it is thought of as being about ensuring trademarks are in place so that legal disputes on ownership do not arise. In fact, it covers a great deal more than that. Intellectual property is a piece in a jigsaw known as the intangible assets of an organisation, which in turn encompasses the whole way in which a company does business.
Organisations need to take IP seriously as it is vital to their success. There are three parts to consider. They need to fully understand the value or extent of their IP; fully protect it; and also commercialise it.
Contrary to the expectation of many, it is possible to put quite a specific monetary value on these intangible assets, which is really important when seeking funding, looking to sell a company or in a bankruptcy situation.
If IP is not protected or not protected thoroughly enough, for example in each significant country where it may be at risk there is a real possibility that an organisation could have its trading and product names stolen as well as its ideas and inventions.
So how should businesses go about making their intangible assets work for them? The first step is to undertake a thorough audit. A company’s real value is far more than simply filing patents, and perhaps registering trade marks and designs. It also in its wider intangible assets which include so-called know-how as well as branding, skills, policies, creative works and processes.
Identification of all the valuable intangible assets in a company can be done internally or by calling in outside specialists to undertake an audit and landscaping exercise. Next, a company needs to ensure that protection is as watertight as possible. In addition to having the right patents and trademarks in place an organisation needs to ensure, for example, that its employees cant take ideas to a competitor.
So, finally, to commercialisation and exploitation. Coller IP has developed a Commercialisation and Management Process that allows clients to understand the value of their intangible assets and to assess and track the commercial potential of their products and services at different stages of development. In addition, the process prompts decisions on how and whether to protect the underlying assets. A good IP advisor will not just help a business with the legal protection, it will actively help in the commercialisation process of the ideas behind the goods or services that the company is selling by helping the organisation to realise the value of all the different aspects of the IP.
For anyone looking to attract funding, getting the IP in order is essential. Many venture capitalists/angel investors will be considering a range of IP factors when making their decision whether or not to invest. Knowing the value of your IP or which parts of your IP are more valuable than others is essential when making decisions about what parts of the business to develop, and when considering applying for funding or contemplating a sale. Putting the right IP protection in place is a vital part of the commercial strategy whether for a start-up or growing or established business and its investors.