Here are nine ways in which successful entrepreneurs whom we at Hindles have worked with approach intellectual property.
It’s important to know where you want to be as a business, and when. We can tailor IP filing programs (including patents, trade marks and registered designs) to expected schedules for funding, marketing and product launches. IP costs can mount up, but by understanding your business plan, we can engineer IP costs to fall after key product-related decision points, or after expected funding injections.
Making informed decisions
IP protection decisions are rarely black and white. Different strategies are appropriate for different products, different industries and different contexts. Commonly held views are: software is not patentable; registered designs offer weak protection; and patent protection is better for a product than for a process. In truth, the situation is more nuanced than this. We can help you navigate your IP decisions.
Would WhatsApp be as ubiquitous if it were called PeopleTogetherChat? Why is it hard to think of successful technology companies with names which simply describe what they sell? A brand can be the most valuable IP in many businesses. However, there is an interdependence between the value of your brand and your ability to protect your brand. Successful technology companies often have distinctive branding in some form (brand names, colour schemes, logos, company “feel”). Some of this is straightforward to protect. Some is not. Most of it has value. We regularly help successful companies recognise, cultivate and capitalise on the value of their brand.
How do you focus your IP to best appeal to investors? Which is the best mix of IP rights to protect and grow your market share? How can we help you acquire a package of licensable IP matched to the income you could expect to derive? These are the questions we ask ourselves when you come to us with your business plan. It’s our job to know the right questions to ask and the actions you can take in every situation, and we excel at it. That way, you can be confident that you have the best strategy to take you where you want to go.
It’s often straightforward for businesses to attribute revenue to product lines. As a company grows, mapping IP rights to revenue streams can be important. We have tried and tested methods to help you examine the IP of relevance to your different revenue streams. Without such an analysis, there is a risk that decisions are taken in respect of only a subset of the IP rights of relevance to a given revenue stream.
Of relevance in more ways than one in the current climate, portfolio trimming is an often-overlooked part of good IP management for an entrepreneurial company. Where specific IP assets are no longer of fundamental importance to your operations, reducing overall expenditure on these through sale, license agreements, or abandonment often frees up finances to bolster the IP protection for your core products. We are practiced at helping companies question and understand the value of their existing IP to their current and future plans.
Companies who empower employees to develop and champion key innovations for the business typically enjoy greater commercial success. Where employees identify innovations to help develop your business, there is often benefit in empowering them to recognise that protection for such innovations should be explored. We are experienced in delivering engaging and interactive training sessions to a range of audiences within a business.
The marketeers among you will be familiar with the phrase “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. We frequently advise entrepreneurial companies on how to exploit this principle when marketing pre-launch products and services before a patent application is filed (where it is important, for patent validity purposes, that the details of the new innovations remain secret). Good marketing will support the aims of the business without causing damage.
Ownership of IP assets
The laws in the UK governing ownership by employers of intellectual property rights made by employees as part of their normal job are relatively well understood. However, there are some common pitfalls and often due diligence by investors and purchasers may seek to exploit these, even where the likely risks are low. Founders who are not employees need special consideration. We advise simple solutions to entirely de-risk these issues early in the development of any new intellectual property.
The extra mile
Not including this point, the list above includes nine areas where successful entrepreneurial businesses regularly do well. Of course, they, like us, always give more than you might expect.
Author: Chris Cottingham, Senior Patent Attorney