Ten questions to ask about your intellectual property

Paris Smith representatives Laura Trapnell and Abigail Sinden led the fourth seminar for our 2015 cohort of budding entrepreneurs. In our last blog, we stressed the importance of having a coherent IP strategy at an early stage in a business’s lifecycle.

Today, we list the ten questions that Paris Smith suggests needs to be answered within your own business. But before you take a look at these, identifying the key intellectual property rights in your business is vital. When identifying IP a distinction can be made between classic legal IP and other commercial intangibles. Classic legal IP consists of trademarks, patents, copyrights, registered designs and design rights. Commercial intangibles include goodwill, know-how, trade secrets, customer relations, marketing and distribution networks and business methodology.

Once you’ve made a note of all of these elements, consider the following:

  1. What proportion of business value do IP and intangibles represent for your investment?
  2. What is the business’s IP strategy and does it cover all IP assets, including patents, designs, trademarks, copyrights, know how/trade secrets and contractual IP? Is it written down and known throughout the business?
  3. What is the business’s go-to-market strategy and could licensing play a part?
  4. What is the IP strategy? Does the company engage in both offensive and defensive filings? Does the company engage in both selling and buying IP to protect its position and monetise the portfolio?
  5. What is the company’s patent filing rate per annum and how does this compare with market competitors and to comparable early stage companies? Can you bench mark the company on its IP practices?
  6. How is the core know-how protected? Does the company have identifiable trade secrets and a know-how control policy? Does this extend into all areas of the business?
  7. What does the company know about the patents and IP positions of its major competitors? Does the company engage in regular competitor watching and is an IP analysis done as part of product development?
  8. What is the company’s policy and strategy with regard to IP ownership and licensing in its collaborations or licensing transactions?
  9. Who is primarily responsible for managing the company’s IP, and against what key performance or other indicators is that person measured?
  10. How is IP reported on to the board level? Does the CEO and company management have a good understanding of IP issues and their impact on the business?

These questions should be answered at each business stage but particularly whilst in growth phase.

Angus Webb, CEO of Catalyst Centre tenant Dynamon, stated: “At Dynamon, IP strategy is everything, and ultimately will dictate our valuation when seeking investment. I have been very conscious to seek professional advice before making decisions that influence the security of our IP. The Catalyst seminar on IP provided reassurance to this approach.”

Thanks again to Laura Trapnell and Abigail Sinden of Paris Smith for giving us their considerable insight into intellectual property. To find out more about Paris Smith, head to their website: www.parissmith.co.uk.