IP rights management for companies and SMEs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 30, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 30, 2020

IP rights management for companies and SMEs

Now a days, intellectual property (IP) assets have become the currency of business, used not only to protect technology rights, but also to gain competitive advantage and drive new revenue opportunities. Today, a modern company/SME employs multiple approaches to protect IP rights. The IP Rights Management Strategy (IPRMS) is one instance of such approaches. The IPRMS is to achieve both short and long-term benefits, and eventually to exist in the front row of a business world. Commonly, an IPRMS designs to maintain the complete record of IP, ascertain value of IP assets and expected revenue, estimates IP's contribution to profitability by mapping each IP asset, building structure and system for IPRMS and dissemination of IP assets.

A company/SME can use IPRMS as an integral part of its business strategies in marketing, capital raising, research and development or business development. However, the management in many companies/SMEs fails to connect IPRMS with business strategy. 

The IPRMS requires a centralised infrastructure responsible for overseeing the creation and commercialisation of  IP rights namely, patent, trademark, copyright, industrial design, trade secret, databases and database rights, unregistered design rights, topography rights and any other immaterial asset including, of course, inventions prior to patent application, and should also extend to any other right such as domain names, contracts i.e. non-disclosure contract, rights in the name of an organisation and rights that have been acquired by way of a license or assignment from third parties.

Moreover, well-protected IP rights of a product provide confidence to the consumers and the supply chain. The uniqueness of a product/brand is reasonably assumable, if we say so, when the IP rights have been well protected and the whole world knows about such protection. Also, enforcement of IP rights through IPRMS ensure the company/SME to preserve the legal validity of its IP rights before the relevant authority, prevent infringement from occurring or continuing in the marketplace in order to avoid damage including loss of goodwill or reputation and seek compensation for actual damage, e.g. loss of profit, resulting from any instance of infringement in the marketplace. The nature of IPRMS or how would it be implemented depends upon the nature of products, activities and objectives of a company/SME.

Implementation of IPRMS requires help of both the legal experts and business experts otherwise it would be a challenge for a company/SME to have sufficient information on deliverables and associated categories of IP. As there is no common strategy for all businesses, therefore, the appropriate approach is to gain knowledge regarding the nature of business, products and supply chain etc., identify contract variables, target consumer or users, associated IP rights, enforcement policy of IP rights, etc. and then to formulate the best probable strategy. Perhaps the function of IPRMS may be called "monetisation" IP or "commercialisation of assets" and as it is said such monetisation is possible by maintaining a comprehensive portfolio. Strategically, a portfolio can also help companies identify opportunities in markets or creating new markets.

Significant aspects of IPRMS, therefore, include but not limited to: (a) the continuous monitoring of rights which have been, or are likely to be created, (b) ensuring ownership of such rights, (c) the organisation and documentation of existing rights (registered and unregistered), (d) the documentation and preparation of licensing contracts and other agreements (collaborative projects or joint ventures), (e) the documentation of ownership and valuation of rights or, the establishment of non-disclosure or IP audit policies, (f) Assistance in formulating internal IP policies and administration of licensing and other agreements (exploitation or collaborative), and (g) detection of potential commercial partners and administration of agreements including assisting in or conducting negotiations, etc.

The overall capacity to leverage IP rights to attain and maintain competitive advantage indicates the real value of IP and also increases the value. However, the ability to leverage IP depends on IPRSM. If a company wants to make effective use of its intangible properties, the following are the basic ingredients of a robust IPRMS: (a) regular IP audits, (b) team education, (c) regulatory compliance, (d) detailed records, (f) highly organised information, (g) data visualisation (h) creating brand value, and (h) Sharing experience, etc.

Though a spinout or SME company may not be able to engage experts or appoint appropriate manpower to deal with its IP issues. But the recent trends in business indicate that IP issues should be pulled off. Because creating a brand value for ensuring existence in this corporate world is a basic condition and for this purpose there is no option but to protect IP rights.

The IPRMS inevitably varies with size and type of company/SME. It might be said that the elements of an IPRMS involve both external and internal factors. External factors include issues of licensing/certificate and litigation; internal factors include issues of valuation, information, coordination, and education, etc. Overall, both the types are applicable to all types of company/SME to some extent.

Public institutions should have the tendency to emphasise more on licensing, information, and education. Spinouts and SMEs should emphasise on external issues of licensing and litigation, and, consequently, valuation. Large companies should be concerned equally with all issues, and the companies may be more aware of IP issues due to their in-house IP departments. Be it a large company or SME or spinout, it should be aware of its successful existence by way of adopting and implementing appropriate IPRMS.


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