Intellectual Property (IP) is a strategic business asset. If managed properly it can offer significant benefits, and provide a tool to control commercial risk. In many businesses, however, it is unclear whose responsibility this is. In truth, successful IP strategy begins with the recognition that taking care of IP, as with any other asset, requires everyone in a business to play their part.
There are simple practical steps that MTA members can take to develop successful IP strategy. In our view, the first is to provide the right training.
Why do MTA Members need an IP Strategy?
In a post-Brexit world, UK business must seize every opportunity. IP protection is growing worldwide, and UK businesses are extremely creative, with IP-intensive industries contributing £676.4 billion or 37% to the UK economy. The MTA’s recent IP survey showed that UK manufacturing is already making a valuable contribution in this respect, but it also showed that MTA members may be generating, and then simply losing or giving away valuable IP, without even realising it.
Failing to protect IP represents a missed opportunity to gain competitive edge. This in itself is a business risk. IP may be just one of many commercial factors which must be taken into account in decision making. But no tangible business asset would ever be neglected in this way. And nor should IP. In some businesses however, this neglect is the default position. Turning that around requires a strategic, and cultural, change.
How can an IP Strategy be implemented in practice?
The first step toward effective IP strategy is to understand the value of IP and its uses, and to build a culture of IP awareness throughout all levels of your business – from the board room to the sales force and onto the shop floor. Of course, this needs leadership from management, but it also requires engagement and understanding. It doesn’t need to be an additional burden on your people or to be expensive in monetary terms – those people just need the right skills.
There are many forms of IP, but the gold standard of IP is patent protection. Confidentiality of inventions must be protected if patent protection is ever to be available. Engineers must know enough to be able to spot patentable inventions so they can notify the relevant decision makers. Those decision makers need to understand the patent system if they are to decide which of those inventions should be protected. Those setting the strategy need to know what can be achieved and at what cost when they weigh IP in its commercial context - current sales and products, plans for future growth, and their competitor’s activities.
Providing people with these skills is just a question of training, but the objective of such training is not simply to impart knowledge. The main aim is cultural change. If that is to be successful, the training must be engaging and relevant. The right message must be delivered to the right people in the right way.
Mathys & Squire’s dedicated MTA team are already working with MTA members to do this, and we have long experience of delivering short on-site training programs which get results. Our programs can be adapted to meet individual business needs in a way which is simple and hassle free. For more information, please contact Sean Leach at SALeach@mathys-squire.com.