Intellectual Property (IP) is one of the most valuable assets of a business, yet most SMEs do not invest time and money into making sure that these valuable assets are protected from a legal standpoint. As a result, they may find themselves involved in legal disputes with other businesses for trade mark or copyright infringement, or suffer financial loss due to employees and contractors retaining IP or giving it away. In this article we discuss the important role IP plays in SME growth and how to make sure your business is getting the most out of your IP.
Identify your IP
The first step to ensuring your business IP is protected, is identifying your existing and potential IP.
This can be done using helpful free tools such as the gov.uk IP Health Check or the British Library Business and IP Centre . However, one of the best ways to identify your IP and its value is via an IP Audit. This comprehensive assessment is carried out by legal professionals who identify the IP assets in your key products and services and the legal rights associated with them, as well as any conflicting IP already in existence which may cause financial or legal issues for your business (e.g. a competitor’s registered trade mark) now or in the future.
IP audits also help identify existing IP in potential new markets or territories. Identifying these things at an early stage, could help avoid future wasted cost and disruption.
How to protect your IP
Once you have identified your IP, it is important to identify the best way to protect it. Whether you need to protect your brand by trade marking your logo or patent a new invention, securing your IP fosters business growth and earning potential in the competitive market.
While some IP rights such as copyright do not require registration, others like trade marks and patents require official registration through government IP offices and may need to be renewed from time to time. The easiest way to manage your registered IP is by working with IP professionals who understand the formalities and official requirements.
Do SMEs need to protect their IP?
Unfortunately, most SMEs think that they are not big enough to start thinking about their IP. However, a 2019 EPO/EUIPO study found that SMEs that apply for patents, trade marks or designs are 21% more likely to grow and succeed than those that don’t. An updated 2021 study found that less than 9% of SMEs owned at least one of the three main IP rights (patent, trade mark or design) meaning most SMEs are not making the most of their existing IP.
Securing IP is the foundation of business growth. Protecting your IP not only gives your business a competitive advantage but allows you to profit from those wishing to access your IP using licences and royalties.
If you’d like to learn about the role IP plays in your business, please get in touch with Des Burley from Burley law who is an IP specialist and works closely with the UKIPO to help businesses and entrepreneurs understand and secure their IP.
Des will be hosting a webinar on World IP Day (Tuesday, 26 April) to discuss the importance of IP and innovation. All are welcome to attend and learn about the important role IP plays in building your business.