Intellectual Property specialist Marks & Clerk is the Innovation Showcase sponsor at this year’s Venturefest Scotland. Graham McGlashan, a patent attorney with the firm, will be delivering an interactive workshop at the event.
Here he discusses the importance of being aware of the value of your business’s intangible assets:
It’s always good to take time to consider why your customers choose your products or services over those of your competitors.
Is your brand associated with an image or reputation that they know and trust? Does it put a positive image in their minds? Do you create innovative new products that are appealing? Or have you devised new cutting-edge processes, which offer greater usability and quality? Maybe your products are highly desirable, visually appealing and striking.
It is easy to identify the value of your business’s physical assets such as computers, estate or machinery. But what is the value of your key intangible assets – such as your brand, innovative product or process, or desire inducing design – that differentiate your business?
Often these assets are the result of a significant investment of skill, time, money and effort. How much of an impact would it have on your business if your rivals took advantage of them without the same investment?
For example, what impact would it have if one of your rivals launched a service with a confusingly similar brand name and logo and targeted your customers? Or, what if rivals launched a product or service that copied yours but were able to make it cheaper because they didn’t have to make the same investment in its development?
If someone took your physical assets, you would probably turn to the police – but who would you turn to if one of your rivals misappropriated one of your key intangible assets?
These assets can form a significant proportion of the value in any business and, as such, strongly protecting those assets can potentially be of great benefit.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of intellectual property (IP) protection available to protect these very assets.
Patents can provide protection for new and innovative products and processes, as well as technical concepts such as new ways of operating, using, installing, making or arranging equipment; new chemical or material compositions; improved user interfaces, and so on.
Trade marks can be used to protect brand names, logos and other brand identifiers. Design Registrations can protect the visual appearance of a wide range of items from computer game characters and user interfaces to items of clothing, from cars to handicrafts.
Copyright can cover many things from novels and works of art to lines of computer code or the content of instruction manuals and sales brochures. Protection is also available for a wide range of other intangibles such as databases and integrated circuit designs.
However, identifying your intangible assets and ensuring the appropriate form of intellectual property protection is in place – and enforcing or obtaining value from that intellectual property – can often be confusing and difficult.
Putting the right protection in place can often be time critical, as a public disclosure of a new invention can potentially prevent a patent or design registration from being obtained.
In addition, the ownership of the intellectual property may not be what you think, and what you may consider to be your intellectual property could in fact belong to another party, such as a consultant, contractor or collaborator.
As such, if you haven’t done so already, you may wish to consider discussing your intellectual property with a patent and trade mark Attorney, a specialist IP solicitor or one of a wide range of public and private sector bodies that provide IP advice.
There are also a number of schemes, such as the popular UK Intellectual Property Office IP Audit scheme, administered in Scotland by Scottish Enterprise, which can provide funding and other assistance.
Even if you have put the effort into suitably protecting your intellectual property, then your intellectual property is just another business asset that should bring value to your business.
Regular reviews of your intellectual property portfolio can help to ensure it remains best aligned with your current business objectives, ensures your protection covers what you need and prevents you from paying to keep protection in force for obsolete products. In addition, there are a range of tactical options you can use to maximise value from your intellectual property, which can be sold, licensed, transferred or mortgaged, similar to physical property.
As such, it is clear that now is a good time to think about your key sales differentiators, whether they are suitably protected and whether there is a better way to use that protection to gain value for your business.
Graham will be available before and after his workshop to answer any questions that you might have and hopes to see you there.