Over three quarters of the value of a business is in its intangible assets so it makes sense to structure the organization around those assets and IP related issues instead of trying to make your IP strategy development fit a business plan that may not be optimal.
Your IP strategy will impact each department in your organization – R&D, Finance, Regulatory Affairs, Marketing and HR. A truly integrated strategy will require that we get them all together to define the business strategy in order to align the IP strategy with it.
Even if your IP strategy is already aligned with your business strategy, IP issues may influence many of your strategic considerations. An example of which is the activities of chemical and pharmaceutical companies. They tend to focus intense research on compounds for which they have freedom to operate in order to maximize patent protection.
Another example is the decision made by one of our clients who decided to redesign his product several times during the development phase based on information we provided. Had he not done so he could have risked an expensive infringement lawsuit.
Our client had several options to choose from, some are:
• Accept the possible outcome of the lawsuit and consider it the cost of doing business
• Prepare to countersue – contesting the validity of the competitor’s patent
• Redesign the product
One of our first steps in assisting you with your IP strategy will be to analyze your organization and the environment in which you operate. For instance, if you are a research organization you may be experiencing issues with the researchers’ desire to publish. The culture may be partial toward science rather than business growth with many activities revolving around research contracts. The ownership of the resulting IP is often very ambiguous.
We’ll assist you in developing an IP strategy that includes a publication policy and a clear, unambiguous ownership policy. We’ll help you draft appropriate agreements and implement a training policy to educate your research staff about intellectual property.
Larger corporations often have greater difficulty managing IP. It is important to have an IP strategy with policies that spell out management responsibilities. The policies need to be communicated throughout the organization to establish a coherent approach to IP issues.
Another important element in helping you develop your IP strategy is the IP audit. Our audit may reveal gaps in protection and expose potential risks associated with your internal systems, ownership or conditions of use. It may also identify opportunities such as existing IP protection that is broader than your current business model.
Our audit goes beyond the standard review of registered intellectual property like patents, design registrations, trademarks and plant variety rights. It will document unregistered assets such as know-how, copyright and any other items that may provide you with a competitive advantage.
The outcome of our audit will allow you to chart a course to grow your business knowing your IP strengths and weaknesses. You will not waste resources developing products that cannot be protected or entering markets for which you do not have freedom to operate.
An important part of your IP strategy will be the decision of where to file for IP protection and the scope of protection you should be seeking. This will be driven by the markets you intend to penetrate. Your strategy will take into account the variations of IP legislation in each country. For instance – medical treatment and software cannot be patented in all countries while know-how cannot be licensed in others.
Your competitors’ IP position in various markets is also an important consideration. Freedom to operate (FTO) issues may arise markets you plan to target. Your competitor may have a patent in the United States but not in Europe requiring you to take a different approach in each market. We recommend an FTO search at the initial stages of a project – before you invest too heavy in it.
IP searching can provide a wealth of information about market activity, niche markets and your competitors’ brands. Your market research should include an IP search component to give you a complete picture of the competitive landscape.
Unfortunately, a significant amount of valuable intellectual property is lost due to third party interactions. A third party can be almost anyone dealing with your organization. This can include your suppliers, contractors, customers, partners and even employees. We can help you define an IP policy that clearly defines these interactions with proper systems in place for:
• Employment Contracts
• Visitor Protocols
• Non-Disclosure Agreements
• Development Agreements
• Documentation Protocols
• Succession Planning
• And many others
With over three quarters of your company value represented by intangible assets, it is critical that your IP strategists have the right experience and competence to ensure continued success of the organization.
It is critically important to make an honest evaluation of the talent you have in house and ask yourself the tough questions – is your IP fully protected? Is it working for you? Is it a cost center or profit center? How can Levin Consulting Group assist?