IP really can make or break a business. Get it right and you can control entry to your markets or generate substantial amounts of licensing revenue. Get it wrong and you can be ensnared suddenly in complex litigation with draconian remedies and ruinous legal fees. You can try to ignore it but every business in the world has goodwill, some trade secrets, a website with text and photos all of which are likely to be copyright works.
Problems can be avoided and opportunities seized by spotting them in advance. By and large, that is what big companies do. Their executives will have learnt something about IP at business school. They will have attended conferences or read about IP in business journalists. They will also be supported by in-house lawyers and patent and trade mark attorneys with ready access to the specialist bar and law firms. But inventors, designers and business owners rarely have the time, expertise or funds for any of that.
Those who are aware of the problem have often asked me in the past to recommend a manual on IP for startups. I wrote one on IP enforcement in 2009 but it needs updating and it does not cover non-contentious issues such as patent prosecution, design or trade mark registration or licensing. But one book that I can recommend is Enterprising Ideas A Guide to Intellectual Property for Startups which was written by Omer Hiziroglu and published this year by the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), the UN agency for intellectual property.
The publication is only 78 pages long and can be downloaded free of charge from the WIPO's website. It consists of the following chapters:
- Protecting your innovation
- Distinguishing your product in the market
- Going international
- Other strategic ways to exploit IP
- Managing risks
- Using IP databases, and
- IP audit
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