Our approach relies on our Metis Partners Metisology®, our proprietary methodology which allows us to quickly identify, assess and benchmark the extent and quality of a company’s IP assets. Our model focuses on ten IP asset areas which typically underpin the competitive advantage of a business and therefore we focus on (1) identifying the extent to which they exist (if at all) in a business (2) making the link between the IP assets identified and how they underpin the most financially material products & services and (3) demonstrating how the identified IP assets underpin the assumptions behind, and provide a degree of protection (barriers to entry) to, income & forecasts.


(i) Brand & Reputation

Often considered to be the most visible and valuable IP asset that a company can own, brand value is often overlooked as internally-generated IP is not typically reflected on the balance sheet. Although brand-related IP is more typical in larger established companies, strong brand and reputation instil significant elements of trust, identity and empathy into a company and/or its services and products, thereby creating a valuable competitive advantage.  

(ii) Know-How & Key People

IP assets in the form of know-how take the form of knowledge and expertise which exist in the minds of a few key people within an organisation and are not widely shared or captured in written form, despite having the potential to be a valuable barrier to entry. Negative know-how is a term used to describe knowledge about how not to do certain things as a result of experience gained through processes, market interaction or familiarity with statutory regulations and protocol.


(iii) Trade Secrets

A trade secret is information which is critical to a company’s competitive advantage, and which a business would not want a member of staff “putting on a USB stick and approaching a competitor with.” Typically, trade secrets might cover a database, an algorithm, software code, a technical attribute, unique process, recipe, secret ingredient or any other form of IP which may not be eligible for patent protection or which is best protected via a trade secrets policy. 

(iv) Formal Intellectual Property

Formal IP, often synonymous with “registrable” IP, is typically the most recognisable IP asset a company or individual will own. Formal IP includes patents, trade marks, copyright and design rights which, like brand and reputation, is frequently not represented on a company’s balance sheet although they represent sustainable barriers to entry. 

(v) Key Organisational Knowledge

Organisational knowledge is individual and/or company know-how which has been captured and codified in written form, and can be shared across the breadth of an organisation. This may take the form of a database, training material, process documentation, reports, internal wikis, knowledge management databases, technical or manufacturing specifications and drawings. Keeping this data secure within the company can help bolster its competitive advantage and underpin business scalability and expansion. 

(vi) R&D and Innovation

R&D and Innovation is the process of developing and commercialising new ideas, implementing new processes and/or changing the way the business makes money. It can also entail activities required to keep a business competitive and sustainable in the long-term, including research, new product or service development, new process development, new business models and continuous improvement to current processes. Having a codified process, as well as a well-organised database of previous service and process developments, can enhance a company’s value as well as add to its overall “know-how” database. 

(vii) Strategy & Market Intelligence

The key to IP assets within strategy & market intelligence is relevance and timeliness. The strategic plan must be a “living” document which is regularly reviewed, agreed and put into action. Equally, a company must understand its market and competitors and, in the case of the latter, their IP development strategy, patenting strategy and business model. A company must also understand how their products/services differ from their competitors, and whether this product/service positioning within the marketplace is recognised by its customers. IP assets within this area may include competitor analysis, market analysis and patent landscapes, and can support the successful implementation of the strategy which will guide business growth and expansion. 

(viii) Critical Business Processes

Critical business processes are processes which are key to a business’s operations and level of competitiveness. Not every process is important, and different businesses are likely to have different critical processes, i.e. a manufacturing process might not be important to a software business and vice versa. Regardless, in order to maintain its value these processes need to be documented, protected and, as the business grows, regularly reviewed and improved.

(ix) Critical Customer Relationships

These relationships are differentiated from the usual “over the counter” customer relationships as they normally involve a degree of uniqueness which adds value to the business. This value can take the form of “image-enhancing” customers, collaboration, special products, supply lines or joint innovation, market development, financial significance or a high degree of dependency. As a result, they will be important to overall business competitiveness. 

(x) Critical Partners and Suppliers

A partner is a term to denote a commercial entity which has formed some sort of business alliance with another commercial entity. This relationship may be a contractually-based or exclusive bond in which both entities commit not to ally with third parties, which may create a barrier to entry for other potential competitors.

As with a partner, a certain level of exclusivity with a critical supplier can create additional hurdles and barriers to entry for potential competitors within the marketplace. 

Although each of these IP asset areas provide a company with a degree of competitive advantage, IP assets (i) – (vi) are considered to be particularly critical as they often underpin the most valuable aspects of a company’s IP. These assets also tend to be of particular interest to investors or prospective buyers of a business due to their transferability and value-adding characteristics.