Top 5 IP Tips for SMEs, Entrepreneurs, Start-ups and Scale-ups
Many businesses depend on their creativity and innovation to establish a niche for themselves in a competitive marketplace. At the same time, they often face major challenges in protecting their unique creations because they generally lack the wherewithal—knowledge, time, money—necessary to protect their Intellectual Property.
Securing appropriate IP protection and then policing these rights can be vital to ensure that an SME is able to realise its full commercial potential.
Dr Rachel Daniel’s, an IP Specialist at ip21, gave us her top 5 IP tips for SMEs. IP21 has been delivering best practice IP solutions to many of our Growth Works clients – and Growth Works revenue grant for up to 50% of those costs!
1. Keep any new inventions under wraps
Why? – Confidentiality is a vital requirement for patent applications. The rules mean that self-disclosing an invention before filing a patent application will very likely stop you ever getting it granted in most countries. Seek professional advice to ensure your patent applications are filed correctly.
2. Before starting any collaborative work – agree in writing who owns any potential IP arising from the work, and also identify pre-existing IP that is being contributed to the project.
Why? – It is always easier to agree terms in advance to avoid misunderstandings or leaving you exposed. It can help guard against later and avoidable costly disputes, help maintain relationships and enable you to focus on scaling your business.
3. Check your brand name is available to use – before using it.
Why? – You could be infringing someone else’s rights. If so – they could bring legal action against you, possibly years into your operation if you suddenly come onto their radar. Avoiding a potential enforced rebrand later down the line is vital.
4. Some branding is more registrable as a trademark than others – it’s worth seeking advice at the outset.
Why? – There are rules on what cannot be accepted as registered trademarks e.g. something too descriptive of your service, or protected emblems such as international state flags. If you have plans to register a trade mark in the future, you need to think ahead as it may not always be clear cut.
A strong patent portfolio can add significant value to a business, as well as make it easier to raise equity because the business is more defensible from attack by competition
5. If you’re not sure… remove uncertainty, future cost and ensure all assets are protected through discussion with an IP professional. Being well-informed is arguably the best IP protection you can have.
Why? – Once lost, some IP rights are either irretrievable or very expensive to get back. Businesses may also have IP of value in unexpected places – assets that may be under-utilised and under-protected. Think ahead, protect yourself early and maximise your IP potential as part of your business strategy.
Dr Rachel Daniel is a is an IP Specialist at IP21, which takes a holistic consultative approach to IP advice to ensure that strategic planning, rights registration, portfolio management and enforcement are always aligned with ultimate commercial objectives, and it utilises its long heritage of successful practice in this field and its culture of continuous improvement to deliver best practice IP services.