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Intellectual Property: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

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Intellectual Property: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Have you ever finished opening Christmas presents from under the tree, only to be surprised by a hidden gift with your name on it?

Well, intellectual property (IP) is much the same. However, unlike presents wrapped in distinctive paper with ribbon and bows, IP is often harder to identify.

But once you do, it’s a gift that’ll bring you returns long after the lights are taken down and the tree is packed away.

In this article, I’ll briefly show you how to find some hidden IP and how to use it to your advantage.

Where does IP hide?

Intellectual property is the product of your ideas. Every time you put an idea into a tangible form (writing, painting, recording, etc.) it becomes an asset you own. It’s often, therefore, hiding in plain sight. It’s your online course, your blog articles, your business processes and documents; anything you’ve created in the course of your business.

The most commonly recognised forms of IP are logos, movies and music, but as you can see, there are many other forms from song lyrics to inventions, computer programs to secret recipes, or photographs and training programs.

Why is it a gift?

Once you’ve created it, you can use it in any way you choose. You can use it yourself, sell it, licence it to someone else, or just let it sit in the cupboard and gather dust.

The gift is that all the hard work that went into creating it can be used over and over again, and it’s simply up to you to decide how you want to benefit.

If your ultimate aim is to sell your business, your IP becomes an asset to a potential buyer. They’ll be interested in a well-known brand (that you’ve created), with established procedures (that you’ve created) and unique products and services (that you’ve also created).

Depending on the type of IP, you may be able to license your business concept or training program to others. That means you still own it, but others pay a fee to use it. It can be a heavy-duty arrangement like a franchise, or a much lighter business agreement by using licenses.

Even if you just decide to make use of your own IP, it has the potential to earn its keep in the form of royalties or sales. One song, one book or one training course, can potentially continue ‘giving’ long after the creator has moved on to the great business college in the sky.

How much is it worth?

Like any asset, its value depends on a range of things including how well it’s maintained (or protected), its unique qualities, and market demand. Technically speaking, rosters and ‘to do’ lists are IP, but their value to anyone other than yourself is extremely limited.

One sure way to maximise the value of your IP assets is to protect them from being undermined by copies. Some forms of IP are protected automatically by copyright laws and your focus just needs to be on maintaining records that show when you first created the asset. For more information on this topic read my article, If Content is King, Copyright is…

Other forms of IP are protected by Patent and Design applications (Yep, I’ve written articles on these topics as well. Check out, How Do I Protect My Designs? and What Do You Mean That There Are Two Types of Patents?

The most commonly overlooked form of protection, however, is the Trade Mark. It can seem like a complex issue, but a quick talk with the right lawyer or some DIY reading on the IP Australia website will soon explain how it applies to you.

Protecting your business name, key products, brand names, or logos from being copied will not only maximise their value to a potential buyer but also secure all the hard work you’ve put into building your business.

So, as you unwrap presents this Christmas, take some time to identify the gifts you may have laying around the office.

Make enquiries into how they are protected, and consider ways to make the most of your assets in the year ahead.

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