Intellectual Property for Early Stage Businesses
On 10 June, Rina Sond presented a webinar with Anand Varu, a patent attorney, in conjunction with MSDUK and the University of Hertfordshire about intellectual property for early stage businesses. The webinar was extremely well attended, with around 120 businesses signing up. This shows that intellectual property (IP) is high on the agenda for those early stage businesses who recognise the value of IP and the benefits it can bring.
An Overview of IP Rights
The webinar started with an overview of the main IP rights that exist in the UK. These include patents, trade marks, copyright, design rights and confidential information or trade secrets. Rina also explained which of these rights can be registered or remain unregistered. There are other forms of intellectual property which exist but which weren’t covered in the session. These include plant variety rights and even domain names can be considered as a form of IP, as the registration of these grant exclusive rights to a particular website.
The costs of registration and enforcement were outlined, before moving on to how best to create an IP strategy. This part of the session reinforced the point that businesses should identify the IP in their business, consider its viability and register those rights where it is worth doing so. It also involves monitoring the market and the competition, acknowledging that sometimes opportunities can arise from similar or complementary offerings. The most important part of any strategy is devising the method by which the IP can be exploited or commercialised, because otherwise it will remain of little value.
IP Commercialisation and Strategy
The different options for commercialisation were reviewed, which include a business developing the IP itself, sale and licensing models, collaborations and sponsorship arrangements. These routes can be used in conjunction with each other, and there are pros and cons for each method. Various examples of the different options were provided and the conclusion was reached that there is no right or wrong way of doing things. The decision of which method of exploiting your IP will depend on a range of factors including the business objectives, the forms of IP available, the skills and financial resources, the market in which the business operates, its short term vs. long term goals and so on.
Anand Varu covered patent strategies and explained his theory about the commercialisation and strength of the IP and how these factors can help to determine the strategic direction and focus that a business can take. He also touched upon the commonly asked question of the viability of software patents.
NDAs, Commercial Agreements and Investors
Rina Sond then spoke about NDAs and other commercial agreements and the importance of these. Businesses need to ensure that they get properly drafted contracts in place to protect how their IP may be used and in what circumstances any arrangement can be terminated if things go awry. The common question of when to use NDAs and whether to ask investors to sign one was also covered.
The session then turned to another eagerly awaited segment which covered what investors look for in relation to IP when they are looking to invest into a business. It is well known that investors will seek out a viable business that will give them a return on their investment. When it comes to IP, investors will definitely look at the forms of IP that a business owns when deciding whether or not to invest. So, businesses need to be clear on what IP they own and what it really means for their business.
A key part to getting a business up and running is ensuring that it has sufficient funding. Therefore, the various public and private sector funding options for innovation were briefly reviewed. Please email Rina Sond for a list of these.
Throughout the session, attendees were given an opportunity to review various case studies where they were able to put their learning into practice. This resulted in an enjoyable interactive session with attendees leaving with a solid understanding of IP and the importance of it to their business.
Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.