August 10th, 2017.

For many SMEs, intellectual property matters often fall into the categories of ‘too complicated’, ‘not understood’, and most commonly ‘too expensive’ to address. By failing to properly address IP, many SMEs also fail to properly secure the value in their business. Those SMEs that do manage IP matters effectively are often in a better position to manage risks, grow their business or put it in a better position for collaborations, investment, or acquisition.

IP crops up in a number of different areas of a business. For example, patents owned by a business can affect tax payable on profits depending on application of the ‘patent box’ scheme in the UK (and other countries); employment contracts can affect issues such as ownership of IP rights or the disclosure of trade secrets by leaving employees; marketing activities can bring into play trademark issues; etc. In contrast, a better understanding of IP rights can help to understand the potential risks arising from IP rights owned by others.

IP rights are business tools; their value to a company is to support its business strategy. When developing a business strategy, it is also possible to identify where ownership or control of IP rights could add value. For many people, IP equates to patents, but this is far from the truth. For many SMEs, the most important IP rights are trade secrets, trademarks, and copyright. It is important to understand which IP rights could apply, and the relative benefit that addressing each could bring to the business.

IP protection
An undue focus on one type of IP protection, such as patents, might mask the fact that protection of trademarks or the use of effective contracts to preserve trade secrets might be a better way to advance the values of the business.

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