Starting and running your own business can be one of the most exhilarating and challenging times in your life. However, business leaders occasionally overlook some of the basics of intellectual property (IP) and the importance of getting things right at the outset. Protecting IP and commercialising it can sometimes be the key to commercial success.
Intellectual Property and Intellectual Property Strategy is crucial to every single company, regardless of its size or stage. It relates to why customers choose you over a competitor. In essence, IP is what gives your business its unique selling point (USP).
The UK now has the fastest growing tech ecosystem in Europe, and the UK tech sector recently overtook the US in foreign investment per capita. The surge has primarily been fuelled by investments in fin-tech, AI and clean energy.
In these fast-growing sectors, establishing a carefully preconceived and commercially sensitive intellectual property (IP) strategy is the key. Not only will this help to avoid costly mistakes (often only spotted at the 11th hour before a deal or investment is about to go through), but an effective IP strategy can add value to the business and help drive revenue – either by locking-in the supply chains or keeping competitors ‘off the grass’.
Businesses should be developing an IP strategy from the outset, but it doesn’t have to be costly
At Mathys & Squire LLP we work with businesses of all sizes, from the smallest of start-ups to the largest of multinationals. Over the years, we have helped build IP portfolios for companies that made a transition from start-up to SME and beyond. We have received multiple testimonials from those clients, telling us that the IP portfolios that we helped to build were a large driver in the value of investment or sale achieved by their business.
Developing an IP strategy from the outset doesn’t have to be expensive, however. We know from our experience of working with start-ups that cash is tight, and quite often it can be hard to justify spending money on patent applications before any seed investment has been raised.
In our experience, developing an IP strategy at an early stage can be as simple as identifying aspects of the business or technology that are being developed, and commercially assessing how important they are to the business (in effect, how they relate to the business’s “USP”). Once we have performed this exercise, the outcome may be as simple as “we want to keep this stuff secret until we have raised sufficient investment to file a patent application” or “we are happy to tell other people about this aspect of our business to help generate interest and to secure investment, but we want to keep this other bit secret”.
Often, many early stage businesses are caught in the dilemma of what to keep secret and what to tell investors and the wider world they are scared of giving everything away, but excited to tell the wider world what they are working on. By having a carefully thought out plan, these competing interests can be balanced. A good plan can help ensure that business’ key assets in the form of IP are not lost by inadvertent disclosure in an attempt to raise investment and help to get the business off the ground. Trying to fix these problems later down the line (e.g. after some early success or when further investors come onboard) can prove far more costly than making a decision regarding an IP strategy right from the outset.
Investors will want to see a coherent IP strategy in place before investing
By developing a coherent IP strategy from the beginning, investors can be reassured that the management team have made conscious decisions about where the business is going and can feel confident that their investment will remain secure. They will also want to understand how their investment is going to be used to further build and expand on your IP portfolio. Investors like to see where their money will be going and why. No investor is going to want to invest in a business if the key IP for the business has been given away.
A commercially sensitive IP strategy adds value and increases investment
For many businesses, a key driver of the investment value (and in turn, the value of their business) will be their IP. An important distinction here is that the IP has to be commercially relevant. If the IP (for example, in the form of patents) is commercially focused, it can provide much more “bang for its buck”. It can be tailored to perform many different functions – whether that be locking-in a supply chain, or simply keeping competitors “off the grass”. Many early stage businesses we work with are surprised at how strategically IP, in particular patents, can be used to help achieve commercial objectives.
Andrew and the team at Mathys & Squire have years of real-world, commercial experience in creating such IP strategies and can really help to increase the growth and value of businesses by making their IP work harder for them.
To find out more about how you can protect the IP in your business, contact Andrew White on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)207 783 0000
Andrew White is a European Patent Attorney and a chartered UK Patent Attorney. Andrew has an active approach to engaging with London’s burgeoning start-up community. He provides support and advice to a number of start-up accelerators and incubators in the UK, discussing all aspects of IP including strategy, registered designs, agreements and licencing, as well as patents. Andrew has been commended by clients for his proactive approach and understanding of business strategy. He likes to develop long term relationships with clients and their technical teams to really understand where a business is going and how IP can be used as a tool to complement those drivers and help them grow.
We are delighted to announce that Connected Places Catapult will be running the IP Masterclass with Mathys & Squire and Raising Partners on the 16th September, for SMEs who are interested to know more about IP and understand how IP strategies can promote the growth of your business.