6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Shore Up Your IP Position
In today’s innovation economy, your company’s value depends on the strength of your intellectual property and the infrastructure you’ve put in place to protect it. Despite their importance, IP protection mechanisms like patents and trademarks are often dismissed by enterprise leadership as mere insurance against theft, ignoring the real monetizable value of this important asset class. Taking a laissez faire approach to IP portfolio management risks the strength of your market position by leaving potential revenue on the table and opening you up to competitive losses from any number of threats.
The project of establishing and adopting an enterprise-wide IP strategy is a necessarily long and intricate one. Comprehensive alignment of your overall business strategy with your IP objectives may feel daunting. There are, however, several relatively simple yet deeply effective steps you can take to establish IP as a priority within your company’s culture.
Following are six things you can do right now to shore up your IP position and begin down the road toward a fully aligned IP strategy.
Quarterly IP-Focused Strategy Meetings for Executive Leadership
Your executive leadership team is the emanating source of your IP-aligned business strategy. It is responsible for overseeing the development, protection, and monetization of your company’s vital intangible assets. While you may not yet be ready to establish a standing innovation committee – the cross-disciplinary body that defines and implements the tactical elements of your IP strategy with innovation stakeholders throughout your organization – holding quarterly strategy sessions with representatives from legal, strategic planning, operations, and research & development, can help focus your company’s immediate-term IP directives and provide you with actionable objectives to disseminate to the rest of your innovation teams.
Strengthen IP-related Clauses for New Agreements
A wholesale review of all existing agreements and transactions to ensure strong language for the protection of your valuable IP may be a tall order. A spot check of certain key contracts and relationships, however, can provide a useful perspective in crafting stronger language for new agreement guidelines and templates going forward.
Defining and enforcing your ownership rights of your IP can be a complex process involving various stakeholders from across your organization, as well as external actors like licensees, vendors, and joint-development partners. Performing regular assessments of the employee, vendor, contractor, and client contracts with special focus on IP-related clauses and language that specify ownership rights should be part of your IP legal team’s ongoing remit. An initial spot check will be a good start to establishing this habit.
Professional Development for R&D Teams
As the wellspring of your company’s innovation, fostering a rigorous culture of IP awareness within your R&D department is among the most crucial steps to capturing and protecting valuable IP assets at every stage of development. Creating an ongoing professional development curriculum is crucial to train innovators to recognize novel inventions and establish the processes and protocols around the proper documentation of their potentially patentable inventions. A comprehensive IP educational curriculum certainly takes time and resources to implement, but tapping into your outside legal counsel to present two or three courses would likely pay dividends in procuring new patent assets. A good place to start is training around which inventions are patent eligible and how to write a good invention disclosure.
Ongoing Competitive Monitoring and Landscape Analysis
Keeping a trained eye on the broader IP landscape within your competitive field helps to direct your company’s IP strategy, showing you areas where your innovation can lend you an edge in the marketplace. One relatively easy but high impact activity that you can implement right away is to task your IP legal counsel to perform regular competitive monitoring and landscape analysis. Providing your executive, legal, and R&D stakeholders current data around, among other things, potential threats to your intangible asset portfolio and/or your market share, will prove invaluable to improving your IP strategy – and the strength and value of your portfolio along with it.
Assessing the competitive and infringement risks you may face and mapping the technology landscape can help you understand the monetizable value of your assets, help guide your R&D efforts, and steer you toward future license or acquisition agreements.
Global Trademark Monitoring
Like patent landscape analysis, trademark monitoring helps ensure that the value of your brand in the domestic and global marketplace remains strong. Whenever other entities infringe on your trademarked brand identity – by counterfeiting your products or using the same or similar logos or brand phrases to market their own products, among other infringement activities – the efficacy and strength of your brand can become diluted.
In concert with your legal team, marketing and legal stakeholders should engage a service for monitoring global trademark filings, web domain registrations, and online retail and social media activity to identify these threats to your brand.
Establish Processes for When to Seek a Freedom-to-Operate Opinion
When planning to develop or launch a new product into the marketplace, your legal team will want to perform a freedom-to-operate (FTO) analysis to ensure the solidity of your product’s IP foundation. An FTO uses the tools of landscape analysis to suss out potential infringement risks posed by your new product. Depending on what stage of buildout your product is in, an FTO analysis can even inform the design and development of the product to mitigate any possible future infringement claims by others. Moreover, an FTO opinion can surface possible licensing opportunities to help keep product development and launch on track.
Building an IP aligned enterprise should be a critical strategic priority for any innovation-driven organization, but the culture shift, planning, and resource allocation needed can take time and may seem overwhelming. The six actions outlined in this article will have a huge impact on any organization’s intellectual property asset position and will begin you down the road of full IP alignment.
This article is for informational purposes, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and may be considered advertising under applicable state laws. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and are not necessarily shared by Dilworth IP, its other attorneys, agents, or staff, or its clients.