This is the next blog in the series looking at how companies can align their commercial goals with an effective approach to Intellectual Property (IP), using Potter Clarkson’s “Next 100 Days guide.

During times of crisis, it is more important than ever to mitigate risk within your business. Organisations are already tackling challenges on multiple fronts and taking a proactive approach to managing risk could pay untold dividends.

For innovators, much of the risk relates to disputes with others – either you asserting your IP rights to protect your business from others copying, or defending your company from accusations that you are infringing the IP rights of others. There is also a risk of hard-won innovations slipping from a business’ grasp, especially as work becomes less centralised at the office.

It is anticipated that as businesses and brand owners try to cling to market share, there will be an escalation in disputes and the UK courts are still very much open for business.

Dealing with disputes

Disputes in themselves can be fraught with risk and, at a time where many organisations are operating with depleted resources, it is advisable to carefully consider the merits of pursuing a case versus the cost of taking action.  As always, if there is scope for a viable commercial settlement, explore it.  For example, Alternative Dispute Resolution could prove particularly useful at this time, with both arbitration and mediation bodies operating remotely.

A changing competitive landscape

During the pandemic, many businesses have had to seek out new ways to operate. Those companies who have shown the agility to swiftly and successfully ‘pivot’ their operations into new areas have been applauded. While testament to the agility and ingenuity of many businesses, the pace at which companies have pivoted into new areas could mean greater competition for your organisation. Likewise, if you have diversified or are in the process of doing so, it is important to ensure you are not encroaching on the IP rights of others. One practical measure to consider is implementing trade mark watches, domain name watches or other online watches to identify risks to your brand.

Taking the trade secrets home

It is also notable that with many employees, contractors and collaborators now working from home, many will be taking with them ‘trade secrets’.  It is important to make sure non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and confidentiality provisions are satisfactory in employment and consultancy contracts.  Additionally, and particularly relevant to employees, it is important to consider if internal policies and guidance on confidentiality and trade secrets need updating, and whether additional training should be given to ensure that confidential material is protected when remote working.

By considering these risks now, and how they can be mitigated, it can help avoid missteps happening now which could be costly or fatal to your business.

In my next blog, I will look at the other side of the coin – opportunity. The commercial landscape has altered significantly since the advent of the Covid-19 crisis and new consumer needs are emerging in multiple sectors, so what steps does your business need to take to ensure you can stay ahead in these uncertain times?

I will also be happy to answer any IP questions you have by emailing me at

Richard Wells, patent attorney at Potter