Today’s “idea economy” makes it worthwhile for businesses to closely evaluate their intellectual property. IP rights take many shapes and forms including trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, know-how and patents.
Each of these protects different interests, but should be reviewed collectively with an IP audit. The audit guides your business through the process of establishing preventative measures for protecting, enhancing and even discovering new IP assets. The litigation process is not the place to learn lessons about intellectual property protection, but an IP audit is a good place to start.
For years, business proprietors ignored or undervalued intellectual property. Even now, IP is not adequately appreciated; the possibility for further profit and value remains widely underestimated in many cases. As a business manager, you might be trained to appreciate physical assets like buildings, machinery and financial assets, but might be less familiar or comfortable with valuing intangible assets such as human capital, know-how, brands, designs and other output of a company’s creative capacity.
Traditional views are changing and company managers and owners see that, as a result of the digital revolution together with the growth of the service economy, particularly in the United States, intangible assets are equally – if not more – valuable as hard assets.
More recently, with pressure on corporate profitability, executives are trying to discover what one author referred to as “Rembrandts in The Attic,” namely, unidentified, undervalued or under-exploited IP assets. As a result, managers are increasingly digging for buried treasure among their IP assets. Indeed, some companies exist only to exploit existing IP assets, especially patents. These enterprises, unkindly and unfairly sometimes referred to as “patent vultures,” have upped the ante and shown a bright light on the growing importance of IP issues.
In an IP audit, your lawyer will wield the shovel and dig for hidden IP treasure. Leveraging IP requires a number of disciplines to carry it off successfully: technical, legal, business and economic expertise. To maximize the effectiveness of your IP audit, you should try to develop an integrated strategy with the help of legal counsel. Equally as important, your legal adviser must keep in mind that monetization of IP assets is not the only way to provide value to your business.
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