This is the next blog in the series looking at how companies can align their commercial goals with an effective approach to Intellectual Property, using Potter Clarkson’s “Next 100 Days” guide.
With a clear picture of your current IP position, having undertaken a thorough review, you are now in the best possible position to assess where to invest your time and resources and where to cut back.
Operating in the more restrictive environment of the Covid-19 pandemic requires a more focussed approach to the projects that are most likely to deliver for your business. That ultimately means cutting out any distractions and focusing your project pipeline.
For all businesses, including SMEs and start-ups which are often the mainstay of Science Park tenants, it is crucial that protection of new IP is not neglected. Although this approach might save money in the short term, it can create more expensive problems down the line, as well as missed opportunities.
We have developed seven questions to help you determine how you can get maximum value from your IP assets and activities:
1. How can you identify business-critical projects?
The simplest way to start is by determining how business critical each of your current projects are, ranking them as high, medium, or low priority. You can then apply a traffic light system, identifying which projects must continue during the current crisis, which can be paused for a short time and those that should be stopped.
2. How will scoping the market help you to prioritise?
Effective patent landscaping and brand strategy is likely to prove particularly useful in the current environment, helping to identify where key opportunities lie for your business, and enabling you to align these with current resources. As necessary, these can be supported by more specific freedom to operate searches and trade mark availability searches.
3. Are there ways of reducing cost in the short term?
As a starting point, it is important to consider what, in the short term, is the most cost-effective way of protecting new developments. If an invention cannot be reverse engineered then would keeping it confidential, or as a trade secret, provide adequate protection, for example? Would registered designs or other soft IP rights be sufficient to stop copycats? If patent, design or trade mark filing programmes need to be started, be sure to make use of priority periods to get an initial application on file but defer the cost of seeking protection in other territories.
4. What can be delayed and what is time critical?
Pulling together a prioritised plan of activity will allow you to focus on what matters most right now. You should assess whether to delay moving forward with pending cases like patent, design or trade mark applications, where this is possible to defer costs, or accelerate matters if your objective is to attract investment. Helpfully, IP offices often have mechanisms to allow IP owners to slow things down or speed things up, as necessary.
5. Are your commercial agreements fit for purpose?
Ensuring your licensing and distribution agreements are still fit for purpose at this time is equally important. In particular, consider how any agreements might apply, or not, to any new geographical locations the Covid-19 pandemic has required you to do business in.
6. Is there a better way to handle disputes?
If you are subject to an ongoing dispute, such as European Patent Office oppositions, consider if a different approach is now more appropriate – for example, are there matters which could sensibly be dropped or settled, rather than pursuing further? Additionally, some types of disputes, such as EPO oppositions are particularly amenable to postponement in the current climate.
7. Could collaboration help to keep projects on track?
Collaboration at the right time and in the right fashion can deliver real gains. Consider whether there are there less financially demanding ways of keeping your projects on track. Would it be feasible, for example, to collaborate and consider joint R&D to advance your key projects and spread costs?
The Covid-19 pandemic is causing many constraints on business activity right now but by considering these key issues, innovators can begin to significantly streamline activity and ensure precious resources are deployed where they are needed most.
In my next blog, I will consider what measures can be put in place to reduce the impact of potential threats to your IP position. In the meantime, feel free to email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Wells, patent attorney at Potter Clarkson