Digitally Thinking

IP Audits – bolstering your business

Perhaps it’s a commonplace that the value of many businesses is in the intellectual property; or maybe that’s just something that those dealing regularly with intellectual property think is a commonplace.   Either way – there is a valuable and ridiculously cost-effective way of finding out.   Let me introduce you to IP Audits.  And to free money.  You’ll have to wait for the end, or scroll to the end (which would be cheating) to get to the free money part.

Like many things – if you “get” intellectual property, it’s all around you. However if you’re aware of it, but there are other priorities which crowd the awareness out, getting an audit done will show you a load of doors, and give you the keys to unlock them. You will come away from having an IP audit done with a report, the last part of which will recommend the actions you could take.   You don’t have to work those actions out, because your IP professionals will have done that, and have costed them.  Of course, we declare an interest – we carry out IP audits, and have substantial experience in them, with our reports having been widely approved.  If you like the rest of what you read, please get in touch.

The Process

The process is thorough, but with the right professionals on board, not prolonged or intrusive:

  1. We will start with a deep-dive meeting with the business, to understand what drives it, and ask questions to establish not just what IP assets it thinks it has, but also what it has and hasn’t identified; and perhaps those which it thinks it has but actually, it might not own or have the rights to use.  
  2. We’ll look at rights including copyright, trademarks, patents, databases, domain names, as well as ways of working and methods. 
  3. We’ll look at what is registered, what can be registered, and whether what is registered has been registered to its best advantage. 
  4. We’ll consider the company’s written materials – brochures and websites – and who has contributed to the creation of the IP assets. If they have not been created within the business, we will check if the rights actually belong to the company.  
  5. We’ll want to look at any documents around that – such as licenses, agreements with consultants and contractors, domain name registrations.
  6. We’ll also be looking at the software used within the business, and any developed for or by the business, and asking about the source of the code; including whether any open-source resources have been used, and on what basis; as well as the licenses the company has or has granted.

Through this process we will identify the business’ current IP weaknesses and threats, what precautions are currently taken, and make recommendation to manage the company’s IP on a systematic and sustainable basis – not creating a bureaucratic nightmare, but helping create the right processes and mindsets, and identifying where documentation might be insufficient, and might need improving or creating. Finally, we’ll look at the opportunities which might be available to the business, make strategic recommendations and identify the costs associated with those recommendations.

So, at the end of the process, you will have a really effective, practical handle on what you have, how to protect it, and how to develop it; and at what cost.

So where does the free money come into this?   

The Intellectual Property Office which administers IP rights, has a wider remit than that. Part of its task is to educate in and promote IP.  For eligible business, it is possible for the great majority of the cost of an IP audit to be covered, so that for a £3000 audit (inclusive of VAT), the IPO pays £2500, so the business only pays £400 + vat.  Generally the application will need to be made through Innovate UK Edge, who are able to handle applications from small and medium sized businesses and seek approval: the funding is subject to periodic limits, so an application might not be successful in a specific period for that reason, but be successful later.  It’s not free money in the sense of putting money in your bank, but for a very modest cost, and a significant 5x bolster from the IPO, an IPO audit gives you, within a short timescale,  a powerful tool to realise and protect the value of your IP assets.

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