Join us for a free webinar on 12 September when David Hopkins of the IPO will cover the four main areas of intellectual property and build your understanding of the free online tools available from the IPO. Register here.
Beforehand, we explore some of the main issues to consider.
A business’s knowledge, skills and the creative expression of its ideas are the focus on which today’s national and local economies are increasingly reliant. Many modern businesses are built mainly around these types of assets but they are often overlooked by accountants and their clients.
These valuable intangible assets can be covered by intellectual property (IP) so it's important to recognise and understand them.
It is almost certain that every business, large or small, will own or use some form of IP, and in many cases, without realising. When identified, protected and exploited, IP can generate valuable income streams and can mitigate future risks.
The first and most important step for any business or business adviser is to identify the IP, as not every business will be the same. This can range from the business's brand, ownership of the IP on website or app, photos, reports, marketing material and much more. Once the IP has been established, a business can protect the IP and develop its competitive advantage.
Benefits of IP
Understanding IP can bring many benefits. A business that has identified and protected its IP can build brand value and customer loyalty, taking reassurance that the brand is protected through a UK trade mark. Protected IP can open windows of opportunities such as lucrative income streams through licensing. It can also play an important role in M&A’s and exit strategies or when attempting to raise finance. So where do you start?
Start with an IP audit
Completing an IP audit of a business is a clear way of determining its IP. An IP audit is a review of the intellectual properties owned, used or acquired by a business. The audit will create a starting point and documentation that will best place a business to successfully develop its model. An IP audit should ideally be conducted at the point of business start-up, when launching a new product or service or if an IP audit has never taken place.
An IP audit can be done within the business by someone with the necessary competencies or there are external IP practitioners available to conduct the audit.
Building your own knowledge of IP as an accountant may also strongly position you to complete an IP audit and therefore offer extra value to your clients.
The process should identify any IP assets and their status, their importance to the business and a plan to protect them. Any third party IP right that the business is reliant on should also be listed.
Intellectual Property Office health check tool
The IPO offers a free online health check tool which is a basic IP audit and a great starting point. It’s broken down into the four main IP elements, as well as advice on licensing IP and managing confidential information such as the business's know-how and show-how. After answering a series of simple questions, a tailored confidential report will be created including recommendation action points, explanations and further guidance.
Develop an IP strategy
Once the IP assets are clear, a decision and a plan on the best way of protecting them can follow. The bottom line will often determine the strategy but key factors to consider are how best to commercially exploit any assets through licensing and how best to enforce any IP rights. Restricting others' access to the market place using your monopoly rights may also be a consideration.
Make IP part of business planning
Modern business plans are integrating IP within their framework. This demonstrates that IP is being seriously considered. For example, the relevance of IP assets, whether owned by the business directly or to which they have legitimate access (through licensing) and how they impact on the business in both terms of cost and returning benefits.
Build your knowledge of IP and this will add value to your client engagement
IP plays an important role in today’s business and in the role of the trusted business adviser. In what is a tough market for businesses and their advisers, thousands are increasing their knowledge of IP to keep up with their competitors. For the accountancy profession, understanding IP can add real value to your relationship with both existing and future clients.
To start your journey, take the IPO's e-learning tool - IP Equip. The tool contains four short modules and is CPD accredited, as well as being mobile device friendly to allow completion within your hectic schedules. Many of the IPO's customers have already completed IP Equip to learn about IP - join them today.
Every business will own or use IP; identifying, protecting and exploiting these will help your clients grow.
Join us for a free webinar on 12 September when David will cover the four main areas of intellectual property and build your understanding of the free online tools available from the IPO. Register here.
David Hopkins – business engagement manager, Intellectual Property Office