As a startup, your labours really are limitless. Every job is critical, and time is never on your side. However, there is one task you absolutely cannot overlook or put off for a more convenient time: your intellectual property strategy.
Make sure your IP strategy is top of your to-do list
If you place consideration of your IP strategy into the too hard basket now, it can become very costly for you in the future. It is very important that right from the outset you fully understand your IP, and the ways in which it can support and further your commercial goals. This is the only way to ensure a watertight plan that won’t fail you at any stage, and that is forward focused so that it can grow with your business.
- Choose a dedicated leader
Your IP strategy is not a one-off undertaking, or a matter of simply ticking off a set of tasks from a checklist. It is a complex and ongoing plan of management. It should be forward thinking, and it must be regularly reviewed in line with your business plan – as your company grows, your IP strategy will evolve alongside. It is also crucial that you are prepared at all times for investor-led due diligence, so that you can take advantage of additional revenue opportunities at any time they might arise.
For these reasons, it is important that management of your IP strategy is the dedicated role of a member of your team who has the requisite skills and knowledge to devise, implement and lead your strategy. If your team lacks the necessary know-how, you should make an appointment with your IP attorney to discuss your strategy and plan your next steps.
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- Identify your core IP
It is not possible to safeguard and manage your IP without first identifying it. So, your first task, once you have established who on your team is in the best position to direct and deliver your IP strategy, is to list each of your intangible assets. Next, referring to your business plan, decide which of these assets actually deliver a commercial advantage to your enterprise.
Potential IP assets can include everything from your business name, to your products, processes and services, including designs and features, to trademarks and associated logos and graphics, domain names, trade secrets, customer and other databases, your website, custom software and even things like packaging.
- Licensing and distribution
Once you have identified the full list of your IP assets, you will need to ascertain the processes, systems and people you will be utilising to get your products or services to market. Who will you rely on both internally within your organisation, and outside it to get yourself established and operational? Once you have an outline, decide what steps you need to take to protect each IP asset.
This can include confidentiality provisions in consulting, employment and contractor contracts, or even founder agreements to ensure that your enterprise is protected should a co-founder (or employee) with knowledge of ideas, concepts and other intangible assets leave your organisation. You should also have clear chain of title records for any intellectual property used by your company from the point of establishment.
Unfortunately, for startups without a lot of experience, it is easy to accidentally disclose information that should be kept under wraps. For this reason, it is important to always bear in mind that disclosure of certain information can result in you losing your opportunity to claim protection. So, in addition to ensuring clear contract provisions and having other agreements in place to protect sensitive and valuable information, make it a rule to leave discussions of potentially valuable IP until decisions are made and protections are in place.
The overriding objective of any route-to-market strategy is to make certain that your products (or services) arrive into your customers hands as efficiently and effectively as possible. Achieving this goal is critical to achieving a satisfied clients base, which in turn impacts positively on your all-important sales growth.
Devising and implementing a route-to-market strategy that really performs, requires you to identify and focus on the particular markets that align with and respond to the behaviours, needs and wishes of the relevant target audience. Success, which is measured in strong returns, profitability, and robust goodwill and loyalty, depends on carefully choosing the correct sales channels, products, and value propositions.
To establish an intelligent, responsive and above all, successful route-to-market strategy, your business must first develop a detailed understanding of you customers’ expectations, behaviours, and needs. Acquiring this key information, and truly becoming knowledgeable about what your customers want, requires you to interact directly with them, utilising customer surveys, interviews, or prototype testing. Once you have a clear understanding of what precisely your customers want, you are able to then establish how your products or services add value to them, and identify the most effective channels for reaching your customers.
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- Know your competition
Next you need to understand the IP landscape of your competitors. By gaining an awareness of the obstacles they have contended with along the way to obtaining their IP, you can better understand and plan for any potential difficulties you yourself may face. It also means that you are able ascertain where you stand in relation to your competitors by appreciating how advanced, involved or aggressive their IP strategy is.
- Establish your goals
Once you have compiled all the key information and identified all necessary protections and precautions, you will then need to map out your IP goals.
Enterprises manage their IP in a range of ways, from utilising a straightforward, ‘bare-bones’, cost-effective approach that focuses on maintaining a risk-free status, to, at the other end of the spectrum, an aggressive approach of defending your rights and obstructing competitors.
The range of strategies you can employ is vast, from checks and searches to ensure your ideas are not being copied, to seeking strategic protection of particular IP, to opposing competitor filings and securing your market share. The direction you take is an important one, and depends on the nature of your business, and your goals.
At Platform IP we can work with you to devise an IP strategy that is tailored to your business model and goals, and that protects you into the future.
Book an initial complimentary consultation today to discuss what type of strategy you need.