The principle issues surrounding intellectual property development, its protection and enforcement are the same for all SMEs, however, the specifics of how they should be approached will be unique to each. The approach to IP protection outlined is relevant to all SMEs and not only those dealing with ASEAN. As with many other issues, a few basic actions can go a long way and IP is no exception.
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IP - The Basics
The first step in developing the value of IP in your business and managing risk is to build awareness within your company, particularly amongst senior management and the board, about what is IP? This will help you to answer an important strategic business issue of why protect IP? It is true that many companies have developed valuable IP without recognising it, and risk it as a result. Both questions require ongoing review as your business evolves, and are key to understanding how to protect IP .
IPR to suit you
Developing a tailored IPR approach will depend on your company´s sector of operation, your market positioning, your size and your stage of development, particularly with regards to your business with ASEAN. These issues will determine the value of IP within your company. By this stage, IP protection must already have been understood at both board and management levels so that IP enters the mainstream business process.
Developing an IPR Strategy
You wouldn´t think of starting a business without a HR strategy, market strategy or financing strategy, and for many SMEs an IP strategy is just as important for planning growth and minimising risk. Regardless of the stage of your business with ASEAN; be it in early planning or well-developed over many years, it is important to have in place an IP Strategy. This will require you to put in place a series of steps including:
- IP Audit: to assess your current IP status and development needs. Through this you will be able to set out your priorities and rank internal IP assets.
- Having completed an IP Audit you can put in place effective IP Policy and processes as part of the business process and IP quality control. In the early stages of developing the IP strategy, it may appear complicated and time consuming; however, to grow value in your IP assets this must become routine business practice.
- Implementing IP protection must be incorporated into your relationships with all of your stakeholder groups which broadly includes suppliers, distributors, cooperation partners, customers and your employees, particularly where these relationships relate to technology transfer or transfer of business knowledge.
- Business to business promotion must be reviewed to ensure effective risk management.
- At the same time, you need to understand the procedures and investments related to the registration of your IP rights and the monitoring of their enforcement.
What if your IP is infringed?
It is recommended that a standard operating procedure be put in place when you encounter an IP enforcement problem, for example, in relation to how to investigate the problem or how you might select an IP partner company. All the elements described here should be considered as an ongoing cycle of development which will be more manageable when your senior team actively builds an awareness and understanding of external factors, such as technological advances or competitive trends.