The emergence of the knowledge economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has emphasized the importance of Intellectual Property assets in every business.
In this age and time, they are probably the most valuable assets that, any business can possess.
Age-long market participants, have realized this fact and have begun to let go of dispensable physical and fixed assets, in favour of IP assets.
New market entrants have, also, gone all out, to acquire IP assets of core importance, to the market, in which they operate in, while refusing to expend so much, on fixed, or, physical assets, which are not so important.
Intellectual Property assets, are in the real sense Intellectual Property rights.
These set of rights, are described as assets, due to their highly commercial value, which has been universally recognized.
Intellectual Property right, or, asset, as the case, may be
- A patent, which is an exclusive right, granted by the government to an inventor;
- A trademark, which signifies the right of an individual,
- A business enterprise, to a brand name, trade name, logo, trade dress, or, other source identifiers, which designates certain goods, or, services, as emanating from such an individual
- A business enterprise; a copyright, which is granted to the author, or, creator of a literary, musical, or, dramatic work, as well as, software.
Intellectual Property asset, may also be a trade secret, which protects confidential business information.
Some Intellectual Property, such as patent, trade mark and industrial design, must be registered with the government, while some others, such as copyright and trade secrets, need not be registered.
For the former group of Intellectual Property, registration confers the registrant, with the needed exclusivity and by implication, their commercially valuable nature.
For the latter group, registration serves, as a notice to the world of the exclusive right of the registrant.
Every business, whether big, or, small, has intellectual property, whether, or, not, they are registered.
While registered Intellectual Property, is easy to identify and assess, unregistered intellectual property are not, therefore, every business enterprise must make a conscious effort, to identify all its Intellectual Properties, in order to come up, with an effective commercialization strategy.
In order to identify its Intellectual Property assets, a business enterprise, or, organization, must carry out an IP Audit.
An IP Audit, is a package that contains IP identifying, IP monitoring and IP commercialization.
An IP Audit, in general and IP identification, in particular, is best done, by a professional, although, a basic IP Identification, can be done by, just anybody.
To conduct a basic IP identification, one should:
- List out all the patent rights acquired, bought and licensed-in, by the company
- List out all the creative materials, such as pamphlets, books, instructional materials, songs and software, among others, created by the company, or, its employees, bought and licensed-in, by the company.
- Identify the confidential information, owned by the business, such as a unique formulae, customer database, among others
- List out all the industrial design rights acquired, bought and licensed-in, by the company
After a thorough identification must have been done, the next phase involves the identification of ownership.
If a company, or, organization uses, or, commercializes an IP asset, which does not belong to it, it would get into a big trouble and may have to pay a lot in damages to the rightful owner.
The company must ensure that, it is the rightful owner of all the IP assets, in its possession.
Where some of these Intellectual Properties, are created by its employee, it may enter into an assignment agreement, with such employee, if the assignment has not already been done.
Where a business organization has identified the Intellectual Property assets that belong to it, it may, then, map out a strategy, for its commercialization.
Where a company has a large patent portfolio and only uses some of them in its tangible setting, it may license the remaining patent.
Some organizations, such as IBM, make so much money from licensing out its patent portfolio.
A company that owns a very valuable brand name, such as Apple, or, Coca-cola, can make money, by franchising its brand name, or, trademark, as the international brand, “KFC” and the local brand, “Slot Systems”.
The requirements for a successful franchise transaction, constitutes another story entirely.
A company may also commercialise its IP assets, by selling the goods and services, in which the IP is embedded, for example, GEOX breathable shoes technology, protected by a portfolio of patents, is embedded in the shoes it sells.
A company may also commercialize its IP assets, by selling them outright.
In all, the commercialization route that a company intends to take, depends ultimately, on the objective of the company.
Where, for instance, a company intends to be the exclusive participant, in a particular market, then, its commercialization strategy, would be embedding its IP, in the goods and services it sells, as opposed to licensing out its IP.
Where, on the contrary, a company owns some valuable and important IP rights, but is not doing so well in the market, with respect to the sale of gods and services, it may make money, by licensing out its IP assets, non-exclusively.
In this respect, it is trite that, every company identifies its overall goal and objective, before mapping out commercialization strategy.
About the Author
Olanrewaju Tomisin, is an IP enthusiast who is keen on seeing start-ups leverage their IP to scale their business
Featured Image: 3dprint
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