Did you invest your time and money into the development of your innovative service or product?
Do you have a budget for marketing and sales?

The answer to both these questions is definitely a yes. How about the answer to the following question, then: do you have the money needed to ensure your exclusivity in the market? Do you have the money to protect your products (into the development and marketing of which you invested your time and money) from bigshots and copycats on the market? Do you have regulated relationships with your partners, whoever they might be? I think I can safely say that you don’t. But why did you decide to invest into the development and marketing of your product if you cannot even defend yourself now? If you cannot raise the price? If you cannot even negotiate? That’s right: intellectual property affects all of that – price, market safety, and it also provides you with a different negotiation position.

But first, let’s make one thing clear:

every industry has its own form of intellectual property: the IT industry, for example, is mostly related to copyrights that are protected in a different manner than some kind of a technological innovation, which is normally protected by a patent and/or as a trade secret. All of you with coworkers, all of you with employees, are creating intellectual property, since you’re developing (creating) new knowledge, which falls straight into the category of intellectual property; now, you only need the right way of protecting it – through contracts, internal measures, patents, models…

Intellectual property is the bond between development and market, holding the business model together and keeping your head above water.

Nowadays, it is modern and necessary to be innovative and to be the first one to achieve something; however, both these actions require a well-thought-out market entry, since it cannot hurt to think about your next steps in the era of the internet and globalisation. Internet and open markets present a wonderful marketing tool: at the same time, however, they are a web of traps. Once you’re on the market, you have to know how to behave and how to take care of yourself. Granted, small projects can grow big overtime; this is hard to achieve, however, if you don’t protect your knowledge and your competitive advantage.

 These are the days of the so-called open innovations; it’s time to share knowledge. Companies and their clients, buyers, universities, etc. are looking for innovations… knowledge is shared, that is true, but still, if you take a peek into the patent, trademark, or model database, you’ll quickly find out that the number of applications is growing by the minute. Also take the time to check legal documents on companies websites, or check contracts concluded by companies, if you have access to them – all of these steps are taken for a reason. Why?
Companies simply wish for their development and effort to be repaid. Thus, they can pay their employees and invest into new development.

If you’re a part of the IT industry where patents are hard to come by: don’t worry. Once again, every industry has its own laws and rules, the only thing you need is to find the optimum possibility tailored to your needs, and good legal documents will satisfy the purpose perfectly. There are no world patents, there are no world trademarks, but I do have some good news for you: you don’t need world-wide protection, either. Which is great in terms of costs. The international legislation is written in such a way as to make the system of fees more accessible for innovators, with the fees namely being extremely reasonable on all key markets (EU, USA, CN, CA); an important strategic orientation for when you’re making your decision are therefore the following questions:

  • Which one of your products is the flagship of your company and how do you want to protect it
  • Where do you wish to protect it (only key markets)
  • What will the business model look like (this is how prices and sharing responsibilities among partners are determined)
  • How much money will you spend on defence?

A good example is the strategy of the company FUJITSU http://www.fujitsu.com/global/documents/about/ir/library/integratedrep/IntegratedReport2016-pdf-all.pdf (page 9), along with their report on activities in the field of intellectual property http://www.fujitsu.com/global/Images/bsoipa-2016.pdf which clearly shows the importance of a knowledge database and of profiting from said knowledge. FUJITSU is a big company, that’s true; however, this example is also valid for start-ups and smaller companies.

You must be careful in how you treat the knowledge you wish to market: you have to know where to sell it, who will your partners be, who your competition is, and what are the principles required by your industry – is it better to choose a patent or a trade secret protected by a contract? Do you wish to reinforce your brand?

Remember – a brand is only worth something if you can legally defend it.

But how? We’ll talk about this the next time.