What is an IP strategy?

The costs of developing various forms of intellectual property can vary considerably: a trade secret may involve minimal expense to record and protect, while patents can cost many tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds over their lifespans. Most companies have limited budgets for IP asset creation, so it is essential that they have a clear and easily understood IP strategy and understand the true costs, risks and benefits in the IP creation process. Usually, the company’s business strategy for its intellectual property will dictate the methods of creating returns on those IP assets.

Why is an IP strategy important?

The long-term lifespan of many IP assets means that their return on investment calculations have a different basis from other capital expenditures, therefore its important to have a well documented strategy to create, record, protect and exploit them. The future return on any IP-related expenditure is thus highly dependent on a company’s unique attributes and its continued awareness and monitoring of internal and external conditions. While the wisdom of specific investment in IP assets may often be more apparent in retrospect, it is possible to recognise and manage both the risks and expectations of IP asset creation at all points in the process.

For example, market intelligence can be an important element of an IP strategy and is particularly important for patent-rich companies, as it can identify whether a company has freedom to operate (“FTO”) or, conversely, whether it might potentially infringe upon third party IP. Researching the current IP landscape can form the basis of your company’s legal strategy, whether this involves choosing to license-in or cross-license IP or oppose third-party patents, or its R&D strategies, which may involve modifying your product or inventing around currently patented IP.

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