The first step to protecting and exploiting your business' intellectual property (IP) successfully is carrying out a systematic intellectual property audit.
If you're doing an audit for the first time, you may be surprised how many IP assets your company has and how valuable these are to your business.
How to carry out an IP audit?
To carry out an audit, look closely at your business to:
- identify where IP is used
- find out who owns the IP rights
- assess the value of the IP
This won't always be straightforward. Remember that your IP doesn't just reside in patents you hold or trade marks you have registered. You also need to consider items such as any bespoke software, written material, domain names and customer databases.
Determining who owns IP
Intellectual property can have more than one owner. It can belong to individuals or businesses and be sold or transferred. It's important to determine exactly who owns IP in your business.
Generally speaking, you own intellectual property if you:
- created it (and it meets the requirements for copyright, patent or design protection)
- bought the rights from the creator or a previous owner
- have a brand that could be a trade mark, eg a well-known product name
What is the purpose of an IP audit?
The purpose of an audit is to:
- discover any IP assets which may be under-utilised
- identify potential risks to your business, eg costly legal proceedings
- enable you to plan and create a strategy to maintain and grow your business
Key questions an IP audit should raise are:
- Is my IP protected?
- Am I infringing anybody else's IP rights?
- Am I fully exploiting my IP?
Using a logbook to manage your IP
It can be helpful to record all research, notes, designs and meetings related to your ideas in a dated, tamper-proof logbook, with witness signatures where appropriate. This can serve as a powerful tool, helping you identify and protect your IP later on.
Find GOV.UK's guidance on IP.
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