Intellectual Property is a Hot Topic in an Increasingly Digital World
Posted: 05/02/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
Every organisation has intellectual property which sums up the very core of the business strategy, whether its technological innovations or trading information. However, while most CEOs are aware of the importance of it, they have only a foggy understanding of how to make the most of their assets strategically.
Businesses need to consider three key issues when addressing their intellectual property – how to capture its value, protecting it and, finally, how to enhance it by asserting legal rights.
Realising Value in Intellectual Property
As a first step firms need to take stock of their intellectual property in a strategic way with an audit of all corporate data assets that are integral to the running – and success – of the firm.
If CEOs or business leaders have not already filed patents or registered trademarks, this is something that needs doing immediately as this will prevent design theft by companies that could then undercut the original innovator, causing unnecessary financial hardship.
Jackie Maguire, founder and the chief executive of Coller IP, which provides a full range of professional IP services, told Business Excellence online that intellectual property is not just patents and trademarks.
She explained that intellectual property can even stretch to specific knowledge within the firm, including branding, skills, policies and processes. "Ideas and inventions may be fundamental to the company but the wider intellectual capital often drives growth, profitability and access to markets. Written materials, customer contact lists and bespoke materials can all form part of your intangible assets," she insisted.
Protecting your Data Asset
Once firms have clarity about what their intellectual property is – and have updated their patent portfolio – attention needs to turn to protecting it in order to protect the business. Firstly organisations need to understand the threats specific to their sector and company, as well as the risks in the general business environment.
Recently, Major General Jonathan Shaw, veteran of the Iraq and Falklands Wars and the UK's head of cyber security, warned that no business is immune from attack by hackers acting on orders from foreign governments and corporations, the Daily Telegraph reported.
In the last few years, cyber attacks have shifted focus from targeting individuals, to stealing the intellectual property of corporations as criminals have found the latter to be a much more lucrative strategy.
This was echoed by Maj Gen Shaw, who claimed that although hackers may be acting on behalf of foreign states, the main threat from cyber attacks is not military but economic as the UK economy has lost £27 billion to IP theft, putting scores of British companies out of business.
Much of the problem is linked to a failure by firms to thoroughly protect their data asset as there is a plethora of security systems available, with the technology constantly struggling to keep pace with cyber criminals.
But Maj Gen Shaw suggested that simply improving "cyber hygiene" by regularly changing passwords and updating software would make a significant difference. "Many of them would go away if our cyber hygiene was better. We have embraced the opportunities provided by new technology, such as computers and mobile phones, without giving proper consideration to the downsides," he explained.
Assert your Intellectual Property Rights
While it is better to prevent intellectual property theft, sometimes litigation is unavoidable. Firms need to have a litigation strategy in place to cope with either the theft of intellectual property or the claim from another firm that their patent has been infringed upon.
With the rise and rise of smartphone technology, this issue is becoming a really hot topic – in the last month alone Amazon, Microsoft and Android has all become embroiled in patent litigation.
Amazon has been accused by Smartphone Technologies of violating four of its patents with its new Kindle Fire table, while Microsoft has just made another license agreement with an Android vendor of mobile phones and patents.
The most important issue that businesses need to consider is the strategic alignment of the business goals and functions with their intellectual property legal requirements.
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