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3 Stages of IP Lifecycle Management
As discussed in the 3 Steps for Creating an Effective IP Strategy, most businesses start by thinking that the most important aspect of intellectual property (IP) is simply having an original idea and heading out on the Yellow Brick Road to success.
You may initially believe that the process is as easy as asking your IP attorney to file the IP, without giving it much more thought. Simply put, effective IP takes more than an original idea.
The best IP attorneys can help you think through the entire IP lifecycle: obtaining ownership of your IP and figuring out how your IP can be applied and maintained later to support your overall business strategy. During your initial conversations with your IP attorneys, they will ask you these questions to determine the uses of your IP:
- Will you be using IP to obtain funding or maintain industry control?
- Do you want your IP to exclude competitors or to attract partners?
- Should your IP eliminate copycats or use them to build an audience?
- Are you willing to litigate to the end or would you rather negotiate a compromise and keep moving?
Your answers will identify the likely uses of your IP, allowing your IP to be shaped to fit your future strategic goals. As you begin the process, consider all 3 Stages of IP Lifecycle Management:
Stage 1. Gathering and Assessment
We’ll sit down, take your raw ideas, and turn them into protectable legal assets.
This includes the 4 types of IP:
- Identifying and filing patents
- Selecting and clearing new trademarks
- Registering copyrights
- Protecting existing trade secrets
This first stage is crucial. The strongest forms of IP are resource-intensive and will cost you both money and time, so be very deliberate about which forms of IP your business wants or needs to procure. You should also consider what steps to take to build on any previous successes or challenges, allowing the types of IP used to change and grow over time.
Also at this stage, both inside and outside counsel should proactively challenge their colleagues on how obtaining IP is or will be relevant to the business. No concrete decisions need to be made yet, but the conversations should be happening.
Stage 2. Planning Methods of Use
This is the most challenging phase for many companies because there are still differing paths you can take. As you get patents issued or trademarks registered, plan to categorize them loosely into the three most basic groupings for technology-based IP use:
- Defensive – Building a shield to protect your market share and discourage others from copying the new features of a product.
- Offensive – Proactively targeting the roadmap of competitors to slow or stop their progress by taking legal action and extracting license fees.
- Standards (or collaborative) – Sharing access to the IP for use by others, in return for some benefit to your company. This may give you a seat at a new table where important joint decisions are being made.
There are other uses beyond these three, but they’re beyond the scope of this article. Want to know what they are? Let us know in the comments.
Stage 3. Maintaining the IP
The IP lifecycle is more akin to gardening than it is a real estate investment. You must work with plants that grow over time and then care for them consistently to get the highest yields. Just as they take time to develop, they can also wither and die from neglect. That’s why budgeting and planning should take center stage in the maintenance phase.
One of the best ways to keep your IP alive is to do IP-centric transactions, referred to as IPX. Most contracts around technology will have an IP component in which there are shared rights to use IP in exchange for:
- Artifacts of the agreement, such as software
- Other benefits, such as revenue sharing or access to customers
The benefit of this kind of activity is that it also can generate new ideas for your company or highlight key new areas of growth. Part of your mindset should be on how to keep your eyes on the horizon and know when you need to start heading in a new direction.
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