I am Clive Bonny, founder and principal consultant of independent consultancy Strategic Management Partners (SMP), based in South England. I am also a Strategic Advisor with Clean Growth UK supporting early-stage enterprises and high growth businesses, always with a focus on operating ethically and responsibly.
SMP has been a member of ORB since 2012 and I am also a Certified Auditor for the Responsible Business Standard.
In this article, I will be focusing on Intellectual Property (IP) and sharing why and how a review of your IP reduces trading risks and enhances your business sustainability.
You’ll learn 4 key points:
- How you will benefit from this simple activity
- A few quick steps to ensure successful results
- Examples of common IP gaps
- Funding sources to subsidise costs
Let’s kick off with the benefits. Whats in it for you?
Protecting your intellectual property, your IP, means safeguarding information on your customers, suppliers, staff, operations, security systems, and accounts. It’s not just about patents and trademarks. Your IP represents over half your business assets. That’s more than the cash in your bank account. All this is definitely worth protecting.
An IP audit will first review your valuable data and knowledge assets. Then prioritise strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats. At the end you have an action plan to mitigate risks and maximise opportunities for sustainable growth.
The UK regulates protection standards for all UK businesses at the Intellectual Property Office. Their customers confirm that IP audits identify competitor threats, grow new markets, safeguard confidential data, help licencing and franchising, remove costly risks of infringements and attract funding to expand.
All this can be done quickly and simply with a little help from a qualified specialist.
So, secondly, what quick steps ensure successful results?
A good first step is a brief written survey with the help of a confidential advisor who is professionally qualified. IP advisors have ready-made templates in plain English without legal jargon tailored to your size and sector.
For example, new start-ups are asked if they checked the UK IPO trademark database before registering their business name with Companies House. If you use a name already trademarked by a competitor in your sector competitors can claim your profits.
Established businesses are asked if and how they apply non-disclosure agreements, and their eligibility for Research and Development grants. Every year millions of pounds for R and D grants are unclaimed by small firms.
A well-designed IP survey takes just a few minutes to complete. This forms the basis of your initial discussion with the IP auditor and leads to a holistic analysis of your priorities.
It’s best to include your team in this review as they will then be better informed and engaged to support your IP protection. This reinforces your data protection training and reminds staff how to keep your business information confidential and secure online. That’s a statutory requirement with financial penalties for breaches.
Clive is currently offering a FREE IP AUDIT, worth £250, for ORB Members
See below for details.
Our third point is to take a look at a few common gaps
Were you aware the Information Commissioners Office website names and fines companies and individuals who fail to follow data protection procedures? Even small firms are being fined over £100,000. The ICO also issue penalties for failing to register online. It’s less than £50 to register. That’s not worth the risk of a £4000 penalty is it?
I’ll mention other common issues I encounter:
- Your website developer contract should include content and design assignment of copyright to you. Otherwise sub-contracted development authors still own the website content even after you paid them.
- Your commercial proposals to new clients should be marked confidential and copyrighted with your name and date. This reduces risks of clients sharing your information with your competitors to get better deals at your expense.
- Your IP registrations should be advertised on your website and marketing materials with a warning to deter infringers. This also boosts your supply chain confidence in your due diligence.
- And by the way the letters TM do not denote registered trademark. A capital R inside a circle ® does.
- I also see too many cyber security lapses. Passwords need changing regularly, system access should use two factor verification, and mobile devices lost in transit require immediate remote lockdown.
Fourth and finally, let’s look at funding sources to subsidise IP audits.
Public bodies who offer funding include the Intellectual Property Office and Local Authorities. Many councils provide small business grants to subsidise IP protection as part of their business continuity support. Support can also be accessed from research and education bodies such as Clean Growth UK.
- An IP audit sustains start-up continuity and accelerates high growth
- Steps include a brief survey with a qualified advisor and team briefing
- Your risks are reduced when the audit looks beyond IP registrations
- Funding and advisory support is available and accessible
PROTECTING YOUR BRAND: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY “IP” ASSET REVIEW
The normal cost is £250 but Strategic Management Services is currently offering this IP review free of charge to ORB Members. (This offer may be time-limited so please confirm before proceeding.)
IP REVIEW PROCESS
Every day unprotected IP is copied by competitors and stolen by staff and contractors. Companies also unwittingly buy or use IP which is supplied illegally by others who have not checked ownership. Ignorance is no defence and all profits from IP infringements can be claimed retrospectively by IP owners. Common risks of not registering your trademark include your competitors buying your name as a google adword to take your online enquiries; your website may have a photo owned by a third party; sub-contractors may retain ownership of content and designs they sell to you; others owning your domain names; yet design and trademark applications cost as little as £60 to £170 for protection up to 10 years.
This IP review is tailored to your needs. Our scope includes data protection, designs, logos, trademarks, copyright, contracts with staff and supply chains, staff qualifications for work, information governance policies and procedures, research and development for products and services. Every business creates its own IP in different ways and our review scope prioritises your areas of greatest value. All our clients have prevented infringement costs.
The IP review helps you protect and obtain the best value from your IP assets. It also reduces the risks of infringements and expensive legal action against you for unwitting infringements such as downloading stock photos or using logos before checking IP registers. Some clients have obtained R and D tax credits over £20,000. We can identify potential opportunities for R and D credit applications. A summary of IP risks is on our short video
START THE PROCESS WITH OUT 3-MINUTE IP CHECKLIST
- Complete your 3 minute IP checklist on page 2 overleaf
- IF any answers are NO or NOT SURE Clive will advise FREE how to reduce risk
Clive gives free initial consultations on 01273 308865 or 07973 799153
Please mark each question Y = Yes we do OR N = No we do not OR ? = not sure
If you have any queries, call Clive on 01273 308865 or 07973 799153
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ASSET MANAGEMENT
This article will show you how to develop a strategy for managing your Intellectual Property, your IP, to capitalise your assets and reduce operational risks and costs.
Specifically we’ll show you how to:
- integrate IP into your strategic plan
- manage IP assets to grow your business
- recruit and manage your IP advisors
So first let’s look at building your IP strategy
You may have heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail”
It’s really important for any business, even start-ups, to have a written plan. Your customers, suppliers and staff need to know what you want to achieve, your strategy to reach your goals, and your resources to ensure success.
Analysing your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats will help identify strategic IP priorities. For example strengths will include what makes you different and gives you an edge over competitors. If your brand has visual uniqueness or innovative processes these can be registered and protected.
Another strategic framework is PESTLE This identifies threats and opportunities caused by Political Economic Social Technological Legal and Environmental factors. For example a pandemic may require extra IP policies and procedures for home-worker data protection. Emergency options like this need to be ready made in your business continuity plan.
Every year UK firms apply for over 100,000 trademarks and designs with 90% success rate. Trademark applications start at £170 for 10 years protection. UK design applications start at £50 for 5 years protection. If you’ve paid a designer to create a website or a logo you can register and protect your IP brand ownership. Most designers don’t mention these important options and it’s up to you to ask.
So when you review your business plan, always include your IP needs and costs
Managing your IP assets
It’s important to have a defensive strategy in place. I often see inadvertent infringements of third-party copyrights, patents, trademarks and designs. Emergency reparations can be costly and time-consuming, So have procedures in place in advance to manage the damage.
It’s helpful if you’re on automatic IP database alerts for possible infringements and do monitor all your IP registrations and renewal dates
Regularly check possible infringers on Google. Copycats of popular products are all over public marketplace sites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy.
Ready-made pro-active procedures can deal with infringements of your own IP. These can include templated cease and desist letters and contact details of third-party mediators to accelerate dispute resolution.
Another strategic opportunity is to explore licencing and franchising. I see far too many products and services in localised markets when they have the potential to reach national and international markets at very low cost. Proof of ownership should be shown to licence and franchise products and services
To prove my point the UK employs over half a million people in design occupations. Architects, engineers, manufacturers, retail packaging, fashion and craft trades. But less than 10% of UK designers register their IP. Yet over 80% of those who do have registered designs are exporting with significantly higher profits. That’s why private equity investors and Dragons Den always look at IP ownership. No IP ownership means more competitors and lower returns on investment.
Designers who work with IP advisors like myself can widen their client base and improve their customer retention. If you have IP ownership then your clients can’t ask your competitors to make your registered design cheaper.
So overall IP asset management requires integration into your business plan with both defensive and pro-active actions.
Third and finally, how do you recruit and manage IP advisors?
There is a saying “Horses For Courses” and one person may not suffice. If you require international registrations then advisors based in different legal jurisdictions may be needed.
Patents require technical experts in the subject matter and applications can take years to process. Of 20,000 UK patent applications every year only 1 in 3 are granted by UK IPO and renewal costs increase every year. It’s worth talking to university R and D specialists as many offer subsidised support and access to public funds. You may be asked to share IP and equity.
Trademarks and designs are best registered by qualified advisors. I’ve seen many untrained applicants lose their application fees by omissions and errors in searches, trade classes and narrative descriptions.
Recruit your IP advisor like a key worker. Use linkedin to check their professional qualifications and accreditations; ask for three written references with client feedback for similar work; get a written quote with outcomes and timings to full completion. I see too many quotes which omit costs for handling oppositions, admin and ongoing fees.
After all, you’re giving this person your keys to assets which control your business sustainability!
To summarise, strategic IP asset management should:
- Integrate IP into your business plan
- Apply defensive and pro-active IP strategies
- Use qualified affordable advisors with proven track records