Is your intellectual property secure?

You have produced a revolutionary new invention, or created an innovative new product design – how do you protect these ideas as your own? You legally own Intellectual Property (IP) if you have created it; bought it from the creator or a previous owner; or have a brand that could be a trade mark.  Ownership can be complicated: IP can have more than one owner; belong to an individual or business; and be sold or transferred.  Copyright, patents, designs and trademarks are all forms of IP protection that aim to safeguard IP from being copied or stolen – is yours secure?

Defending IP through patents and trademarks creates the legal underpinning necessary to safeguard ideas and ensure other companies pay for the use of those ideas.  However, building a strong IP defence is easier said than done: acquiring basic patents can take up to six years; hundreds of hours of administrative work; and thousands in legal fees.

Defensible IP used to be a crucial asset for venture capitalists looking to invest in start-ups, but following the success of high-profile technology companies such as Twitter and Facebook – that are relatively weak on patentable intellectual property - investors are in danger of rethinking this.

If you intend to scale up a start-up quickly, a secure IP portfolio is still vitally important to maintaining a long-life in most industries – and other big-hitting technology companies would agree.  Over the past six months some of the largest and most successful innovators, including Google, Microsoft and Apple, spent more than $18 billion on IP in the voice space alone.  These businesses understand the importance of investing in IP portfolios and protecting diverse and innovative ideas for future use.

How do you begin to secure your IP? Before engaging in the process of IP protection it is important to understand how each industry handles intellectual property, as this can vary.  Products in biotech and telecommunications are likely to stay on the market for a number of years, which means start-ups in these sectors must obtain secure patents immediately.  Whereas in retail, consumer devices and manufacturing firms, products are constantly changing – every year or so.  IP management in these industries would suggest filing late in the product design process – if at all – and using IP tactics including trade secrets and confidentiality agreements.

Spend time learning about IP: educate teams on the basics of trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets.  It is important to remember that patents are not the only form of asset, registered and unregistered trademarks and copyrights can be just as valuable.  When filing for patents – do it fast. A patent application holds its place in the queue and allows 12 months from submission to expand the filing.  Think about the future of your business and the IP that can contribute to its success, this information will drive your personalised patent strategy and help to decipher what work needs to be legally protected.

Managing and protecting IP can be a complicated and time-consuming process. There are several elements to consider in the maze of IP: utility patents; design patents; patents for plant life; and industrial plants - but portfolios remain increasingly important to business growth.  If you are already in business and do not have patents for valuable ideas - get started now.  Enlisting an IP management firm will help to delegate the time consuming tasks of IP searching, filing and management to professionals.  The right IP professionals will navigate the IP space and protect innovative ideas from being stolen or reproduced, whilst helping to safeguard new ideas for the future.