IP Peace of Mind: Craft a Robust Protection Plan to Protect Your Business

Every business has Intellectual Property, every business is exposed to potential IP litigation, and every business needs a system to consistently protect assets and avoid risks. You must have a system that focuses on Intellectual Property, yours, and others’ IP. If your business doesn’t have a system, you’re likely to be sued and likely to lose valuable IP assets. Every product you develop and every name you give those products might be protected by others’ intellectual property. It’s your responsibility to know whether you’re infringing. Getting a letter in the mail inviting you to a lawsuit can lead to business failure. These are often multi-million-dollar disputes. If you’re right, and you didn’t infringe, you can spend millions, and the result is that you can now do what you initially intended, but with millions less in the bank account. If you’re wrong, you’ll pay damages, and likely have to stop. A good system will put you on notice that what you plan to do might be an issue, and allow for alternative paths.

As a young lawyer I represented a startup business sued for patent infringement. After years of court battles, we won. Walking down the steps of the Federal Court I commented that this must feel good, and the owner said, “It would, except we’re now bankrupt.” Even though we won the lawsuit, we lost the war. I never forgot that day and the lesson that it’s always best to avoid a lawsuit. A system that shines a bright light on potential IP risks before a lawsuit allows you to evaluate, plan and adjust if needed.

A system that reviews products and their related trademarks identifies risks. A good system will avoid surprise lawsuits. Without a system, you’re blindly rolling the dice, and a bad roll can destroy your business.

Without a system, you also risk losing valuable rights. Both Forbes and Harvard Business Review recently reported that intangible assets are more valuable than tangible assets. A recent report by Ocean Tomo, a respected IP valuation firm, determined the value of intangible assets of the S&P 500 companies comprises 90% of those companies’ valuation. This may seem high to you, but whatever the percentage, IP is valuable. Intellectual property makes up most of a company’s intangible assets. If you don’t have a formal system to protect these assets, you’re risking your company’s value.

Every business has insurance to protect business aasets. They also have numerous systems to protect the business and its assets. But many fail to have the insurance provided by a system that protects the most valuable asset, intellectual property. Intellectual property is typically an afterthought. This is not only unfortunate, but also a huge mistake.

I regularly have new clients contact me to protect an invention. But they didn’t know that there is a period in which to file and if it is missed, you lose the right to file. Or others who have picked a trademark only to find that it infringes another’s trademark, or that it’s a weak mark and of little value. A system would have prevented these losses.

I’ve developed a simple system that takes about four hours per year, one hour per quarter, to protect your business from surprise lawsuits and to build your intellectual property portfolio, and as a result, build the value of your business. I call it the ReCiPe for Success. It has three steps: Recognize the value of your intellectual property and what you have; Collect your intellectual property; and Protect what you Collected.

Recognizing intellectual property is a companywide initiative. To get everyone on board, all they need to ask is: 1) is it important to the company? and 2) would you rather the competition not have it? If you answer “yes” to both questions, then you Collect it. Collection can take many forms, but the easiest is to email me and we will create an agenda for the Protect step. The Protect step is a meeting to review what was collected and any new product launches. These meetings take about an hour to review, make decisions, and keep the business focused on intellectual property.  It creates a quarterly loop to maintain focus on your most valuable assets and avoid litigation. I have forms to make this process fast, efficient, and effective.

Takeaway

Start the New Year off right and implement an effective system. Your business and your creativity deserve a system that protects them. If you want to start the ReCiPe for Success, give me a call and I will help.

Bill Honaker, The IP Guy

About the Author:

Bill Honaker, “The IP Guy” is a former USPTO Examiner, a partner with Dickinson-Wright, and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Assets – How to Maximize the Hidden Value in Your Business. To download a sample chapter, click here.

To get answers to your questions click here to schedule a time to talk, email Bill@IPGuy.com, or give him a call at 248-318-7015.

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