One of the reasons I set up Virtuoso Legal 16 years ago was because when working in the big law firms, I saw so many enterprising and vibrant companies who wanted to scale but found themselves limited by the fact that they hadn’t properly protected and commercialised their IP.
It was sometimes toe-curling to see these oversights emerge down the line. Key technology hadn’t been patented or had been shared for development purposes, giving a third party or parties access to the Crown Jewels. In some instances, trade marks hadn’t been filed properly or had been done badly by a cheap and cheerful online service meaning that key specifications had been missed off or international trade mark protection had been missed.
In a global economy where business moves quickly, these seemingly small matters become big issues. Companies find it difficult to get funding as the competition takes hold, and/or such companies spend a lot of time with me, correcting the gaping holes in their portfolios.
So, what are the top 5 things to look out for if you want to scale your business and make sure your intellectual property continues to give you a real edge in the market place?
- Ensure your new technology is protected. For things such as novel products, manufacturing techniques and improvements on technologies already used in your company, look to having a patenting strategy. A good strategy may well include keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing as well as thinking where the technology can be exploited and how quickly does the company need to move to get a granted patent on this to keep it safe? Other strategic moves include looking carefully at selected territories for protection overseas and ensuring key market places are included in any strategy.
- Trade Marks – these cover the names, brands and logos that make you stand out from the crowd. Few companies can grow without exporting, and yet I see so many that do so without a coherent trade mar strategy about what they cover and where they cover it. Doing it in an organised way, early on can save a fortune, as can looking to licensing out a brand as it grows thereby creating an additional funding stream. Companies such as Rolls Royce make half their revenue from licensing streams – and have done for a few years. Look at what the big players are doing and see if it can apply to your business.
- Have great online systems or online routes to market. To be fair most companies now give this a major priority. However, taking it further by creating novel ways of contacting your clients and the creation of apps is sometimes overlooked, especially as fast-growing companies often seem to be focused on the best product, not the best route to market. This can be problematic as I frequently see poorer ideas better executed online absolutely smash a much better product in the market with less visibility. It’s not fair but it happens!
- Make sure your designs are registered within 12 months of being marketed. Registered designs are one of the fastest growing areas of IP law as businesses cotton on to the fact that this right provides instant protection for relatively low cost. However, again beware of not doing it properly. The right is not examined before being granted and incorrect drawings or badly drafted applications can render the right of little use if challenged. It is also worth looking at registration equivalents overseas to maximise protection.
- Look after your data and information systems. Collecting and analysing data in your business can really give you the cutting edge. If you’re not using AI, then you should be asking yourself why. Moulding your business offering around exactly what your customer needs and wants is easier than ever to achieve using AI tools and if you’re not using them to grow then you can bet someone else will! This type of know how is increasingly valuable and creates a great insight into trends, products and consumer behaviour.
As with everything, prevention is better than cure. When we see clients we take a holistic view of what they’re doing and provide a raft of suggestions from legal expenses insurance to tax breaks for innovation. It’s part of what we do – excellence comes as standard as we partner with businesses to make the most of them.
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