By Carrick Robinson, Partner, James & Wells
With so many issues and demands competing for your attention, your intellectual property (IP) strategy can sometimes quietly slip towards the bottom of the pile. IP won’t always be front-of-mind for busy FMCG professionals, so it’s important to revisit and re-assess your position as often as possible.
1. Regularly review and interrogate your IP strategy, particularly if your business changes
Even if things are ticking along nicely, it’s critical to regularly review your IP strategy to confirm it is still fit for purpose. This is even more important if your business is making significant changes to its plans – for example, delaying or accelerating the launch of new products or services.
Information and planning are key to protect and leverage new IP rights, and to minimise risk. Going through this process can often identify inefficiency or redundancy in the strategy, which will allow you to make good choices regarding the allocation of resources and costs.
2. Assess your IP risks and plan accordingly
As the business environment evolves, significant disruptions to your company’s supply chain, customer base, revenues or labour force will inevitably serve up a new set of potential IP risks to mitigate and prioritise against.
If you’re in a business that is heavily dependent on a portfolio of branded consumer products, for example – you will want to weigh up those that are critical to the ongoing success of your business and ensure you continue to protect and enforce the associated IP.
Similarly, if you’re innovating and inventing new products or services to capitalise on emerging market opportunities, you will want to ensure you don’t disclose your ideas prematurely. Many companies thrive in adverse conditions. If yours is one of these, strive to keep the IP implications of what you’re doing on your risk radar.
3. Reinforce IP awareness internally
Flexible and remote working arrangements have likely changed the way you and your team communicate on a day-to-day basis.
Maintaining the value of and opportunity presented by your IP assets is as much about the internal processes you put in place, as the more formal external processes required to protect, enforce and leverage them. Ensure your wider internal team remains IP-aware with a regular and open communication channel back to your legal team and, if necessary, your external IP provider.
4. Review deadlines associated with your IP
Unfortunately, in a world where there are already more than enough deadlines to deal with, the successful protection and maintenance of your IP is very much a deadline-driven process. Making pressure-forced decisions in respect of an impending deadline can be costly and can mean the difference between securing the protection your business requires or losing protection and the associated competitive advantage the business already has.
Whether you are in the process of securing protection for any new IP rights, it’s essential to regularly review and diarise any deadlines associated with your IP. Allow as much time as possible before a deadline to work through any issues or submission requirements with your IP provider.
5. Remain informed and ready to act
Whether you have a large IP portfolio, or a few vital IP assets to protect and maintain, trusted and expert IP advice is essential.
An external IP provider can help cut through the challenges of managing the complexities of the IP process. They can provide a sounding-board on the strategic and commercial implications of any changes you may need to make to your IP strategy during these times.
They will also guide you on the right actions to take and when. They will also keep you current and informed of any issues that may impact your plans or portfolio, and most importantly are there to help keep your IP strategy on track.