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Take your intellectual property seriously

Intellectual property is a valuable asset which has to be recognised and protected, as Ian Sterritt of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) explains.

Innovation is crucial for the ongoing success of any business. It could be the development of a new method, product or invention. But, innovation isn’t just about new products or technology. It’s how you do things and how you turn your ideas into solutions that ultimately add value for customers. Innovation, founded on the power of human creativity, is anywhere that solutions are addressing problems.

Increasingly it’s the intangible assets of knowledge, skills and the creative expression of ideas that today’s local and national economies are reliant upon. Many modern and successful businesses are built around these types of intellectual assets more than the traditional view of assets purely being tangible - such as buildings and equipment.

Understanding Intellectual Property

Intangible assets can be covered by Intellectual Property (IP), so it’s important to recognise and understand them. It’s almost certain that every business, large or small, will own or use some form of IP.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the official UK government body, responsible for IP rights, wants businesses to make the most of these assets. We help people understand IP and provide the right type of protection for their creation. There are five main types of IP:

  • Patents
  • Designs
  • Trade marks
  • Copyright
  • Know-how

Confidential know-how, often in the form of Trade Secrets is normally best protected by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). While we grant and maintain IP rights we also help to guide IP management and exploitation. When identified, protected and exploited, IP can generate valuable income streams and mitigate future risks.

More and more modern businesses are integrating IP into their overall business strategy, which shows that IP is being taken seriously. A clearly articulated business strategy can be essential, for instance when looking to raise investment, and taking proper consideration of your IP assets can be an important part of that.

Developing an IP strategy

The creation of an IP strategy starts with knowing what intellectual assets you already own and an initial IP audit will help determine this.

Things to consider in an IP strategy include:

  • What you create on a daily basis and any future plans
  • What you use that may be owned by other parties
  • Assets that underpin your critical value
  • A protection and management plan to minimise risks including budget available
  • Return on investment associated with IP assets

An IP strategy may vary from business to business depending on the market size, life cycle of the product or service, as well as the risks and potential competition. It can help position the business correctly and feed into business planning. An effective IP strategy should drive further innovation and open windows into other potential markets.

IP for Business tools

Our IP for Business online tools are designed to help you understand, identify, protect and exploit your IP assets. Whether you’re a complete novice or looking to brush up on existing skills, we have the right tool for you:

IP Equip - Aimed at everyone, from small business owners to professional advisors. A free, interactive online learning tool to help you identify assets which may be protected by IP rights. Made up of four modules on the main IP rights, it takes around an hour to complete and is also CPD accredited.

IP Health Check – Aimed at businesses looking for a more detailed look at their IP. A free online assessment of your business to help you identify and add value to your IP assets. Based on your answers to a series of simple questions, it provides a confidential report with advice on how to protect your IP.

You can find our tools and guidance on our IP for business pages here.

If you need help getting started or think your business could benefit from fully-funded support, start your journey today and Enquire & Grow.

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Ian Sterritt

Ian Sterritt, North West Business Support Policy Officer, Intellectual Property Office

Ian is responsible for IPO Business Support in the Northern Powerhouse. Ian has 30 years’ experience as an entrepreneur managing the commercialisation of several high-profile new technology solutions within both established and fast-growing companies. He has broad knowledge across several technologies and industries − from electronics and software apps, to manufacturing in the food and drink sector – with a history of building collaborations, managing a diverse Intellectual Property portfolio, strategy formulation and innovation practice.