By Sancho Simmonds, Assurance and Business Services Partner at Smith & Williamson

As the recognition of the value of intellectual assets, including intellectual property (IP), increases, management teams are becoming more aware of the need to consider it as a part of their mainstream business planning. Whilst IP and its protection will be more important to some businesses than others, no one is exempt. You will therefore need systems that enable you to capture, exploit, monitor and enforce these important rights.

Here’s a toolkit to help you start the process:

• Do an initial IP audit to understand what you have
• Identify what is distinct about your business. What is it that you can and need to protect?
• Identify existing intellectual property rights (IPR) and create a central register of who owns what
• Review the commercial impact of your existing IPR. What value is it adding to your business? Is there room for cost saving through rationalisation?
• Review existing patent, design and trade mark issues. Identify the gaps and seek relevant, additional protection
• Don’t forget intellectual assets such as employee, customer and supply contracts. These may be able to be protected in other ways

Develop an IP strategy

• Understand how your IP/IPR can help you deliver your business objectives
• Create systems to identify and capture innovation early on
• Develop a robust and cost effective IP filing strategy based on your local and international markets
• Identify an IP champion or team and make key people aware of your IP strategy and its importance
• Consider reward schemes to incentivise innovation and IP creation

Identify IP risks and opportunities

• Examine exploitation options to build value: exclusivity, license, sell...
• Improve third party awareness about the risk of infringement
• Deal with third party issues including IP arising through supplier contracts or joint ventures
• Draft suitable IP clauses to include in your employment contracts

Manage and maintain your IP portfolio

• Agree and monitor an IP budget
• Regularly review and update your IP strategy and keep a detailed IPR register
• Assess the competitor landscape for risks and new opportunities
• Promote your IP to investors as an integral part of your business plan and value proposition
• Do thorough IP due diligence in advance of any transactions (Trade Sales, M&A, IPO’s, investments etc.)
• Consider the benefits of getting expert valuations of your IP

At the end of the day, the pursuit of IP is only relevant if it adds value to your business. By developing an IP strategy, capturing and protecting innovation and monitoring your IP assets and their exploitation, you will add to the profitability and professionalism in your business and facilitate your future growth.

To find out more about developing your IP strategy contact Sancho Simmonds on 020 7131 4590 or email sancho.simmonds@smith.williamson.co.uk.

By necessity this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Article correct at time of writing.

Smith & Williamson LLP
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The word partner is used to refer to a member of Smith & Williamson LLP.