3 Tips for Successful IP Management in Small to Medium Sized Enterprises
It’s common practice in most businesses to implement strategic management to track performance in areas such as growth, marketing initiatives and broader business goals. However, many small to medium sized enterprises (SMSEs) lack strategic measures for Intellectual Property (IP) management.
If you run a SMSE, its highly likely that you own IP. In a knowledge-based and technology-rich economy, IP is a flexible and valuable asset for ensuring competitiveness and preventing your businesses hard earned work from being used or adapted for free by external competitors. Thus, like any other tangible asset, IP needs to be efficiently managed to ensure optimal performance and growth.
We have summarised three tips for getting IP management strategies off the ground to help SMSEs extract more value from their IP.
Know your IP and make sure you own it
The key to efficient and successful IP management is understanding your IP assets and the rules and requirements attached to them. It’s important to understand the different forms of IP rights, how they arise and how you protect or defend them. It’s valuable to take some time to discern what IP your SMSE works with and make sure you have taken steps to exercise ownership over it and protect it from third parties.
We have provided a simple chart below as a quick IP guide.
|Form of IP||What’s protected?||Registration|
|Copyright||Copyright is a legal right that grants the maker of original work the exclusive use and distribution of their creation. Under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), when someone creates content in Australia, they automatically obtain copyright over the work.||NO|
|Patents||A patent is a form of licence or authority from a government organisation that grants an individual or organisation exclusive use of IP for a set amount of time. In Australia, patents are granted by IP Australia.||YES|
|Designs||Designs are unique visual creations that can also be registered with IP Australia.||YES|
|Names||Business names and company names are also forms of IP. Business and company names must be registered with ASIC to be protected.||YES|
|Confidential information||Confidential information includes trade secrets and information that is unique and private to the enterprise. While this form of IP is not registerable, it is protected in multiple ways such as in enterprise or employment agreements or by way of action of breach of confidential information.||NO|
|Trademarks||Trademarks are logos, symbols, badges etc. that are unique to a business or company. You can apply for a trademark online through IP Australia.||YES|
Devise a strategy
Once you know what your IP assets are, and you have taken the essential steps to protect these assets, it’s time to create a strategy to ensure your IP is being used to benefit your enterprise. There are multiple different tactics for IP management, however, the most effective strategies are constructed with consideration of the unique characteristics of the individual enterprise. Remember, because IP is an asset, if it isn’t creating revenue for your enterprise you can sell or licence it to another party. If you want to read about IP management strategies, you can take a look at William Fisher III and Felix Oberholzer-Gee article published by Harvard Business School.
Don’t infringe the IP rights of other enterprises
Of almost equal importance to protecting and managing your own IP is not infringing a third party’s rights. You don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of IP legal action, nor do you want to build branding, customer loyalty and corporate identity around IP that isn’t yours. Furthermore, being aware of the IP owned by other enterprises opens opportunities for collaboration and joint endeavours.
While your IP strategy will need to evolve and become more sophisticate as your enterprise grows, understanding and implementing IP strategies from the get go creates the best foundation for business growth and success.