Why your Business Needs IP

Day after day, entrepreneurship continues to gain traction all over the world; and although it serves as a major revenue stream for some nations, many underserved nations, like Nigeria, may not be able to relate.

This is not farfetched.

The engine of entrepreneurship is creativity; that disruptive and innovation edge which stands out an entrepreneur attracts clients and customers and ultimately develops into a brand. But like every engine, where creativity is not lubricated, it would tire out and knock down.

Apparently, there are many promising but shortlived businesses spread like mushroom all over the globe without a source of revenue for them, or worse, without effective machinery to protect their creativity or the creative aspects of their businesses.  

This is where Intellectual Property (IP) comes in as the protections afforded by intellectual property help startups to protect and profit off their inventions, trademarks, copyright, and designs.

Today, Nike is the biggest sports sponsor, but it all started as far back as the early 1960s. Bill Bowerman, University of Oregon’s running coach and his pupil Phil Knight invented the Waffle Trainer and protected it under patent and trademarks, and saw it grow into the Nike brand, after decades of aggressive IP strategies which are addressed below.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) suggested four strategies of  maximizing P viz;

Acquisition of IP

Exploitation of IP

Monitoring of IP

Enforcement of IP

1. Acquisition of IP:  This involves taking deliberate steps to acquire IP. IP protections include copyright and related rights, trademarks, patents, and industrial designs. For instance, if your product is a written, literary or artistic work such as books, photographs, videos, software codes, manuals, the IP to acquire is copyright, and if your product (or service) is to performed or broadcast, the IP to acquire is related rights. If it is an invention that is new, novel and capable of industrial application, you should acquire a patent. The gist is to identify the relevant IP and register them with the relevant authorities which may be local or international.

2. Exploitation of IP: Here, you are essentially profiting off your intellectual property assets via licencing your products or selling your IP rights to other companies, merchandising or franchising your brand to other retailers, and using the existence of IP to boost clientele or access to finance. For instance, KFC is a leading world franchisor, and it continues to expand by licensing its intellectual property, use of its business model, brand, and rights to sell its branded products and services to many franchisees, which is why you can find KFC almost anywhere in the world.

3. Monitoring of IP: This concerns putting such machinery in place to monitor any infringements of IP, breach of IP agreements as well as ensuring you do not infringe on others’ IP rights. Here, you may employ a lawyer or IP monitoring services to keep track of infringement. For instance, HBO employed IP Echleon to track down pirates and individuals involved in infringement on its broadcast rights.

Key to Growth

4. Enforcement of IP: This consists in reporting cases of IP infringement to relevant authorities while also leveraging them through out of court settlements, for instance. Issuance of Cease and Desist letters, copyright infringement notices via Internet Service Providers, charging after-use license fee for copyright infringements, the tort of passing off etc, are means of enforcing IP.

When all these strategies have been put to use, you would have developed your brand and your engine would have plenty of oil to lubricate it to last for a long time.

Because IP is the new oil.

Olanrewaju Moses.

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