The small business client provides unique opportunities to integrate the business goals, entity management, and intellectual property plans. A properly designed and registered portfolio of trademarks, patents, and, copyrights managed through the appropriate business entity and contracts can provide the small business the legal advantages that work on their budget and time scale.
The distinguishing service I offer is intellectual property management now limited to patent preparation and prosecution, both domestic (US), and, international through a network of international attorney partners.
How does Intellectual Property relate to business success?
It’s not just what you own that counts; it is what you know. Intellectual Property in the form of Trade Secrets, Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights is often the only unique property a business can own. The intellectual Property of your company consists of the company and product names (Trademarks), your knowledge of how to design, make and sell your products or services (Trade Secrets and Patents) and the creative content included in the products and services (Copyright). Resources are available worldwide to help you design, manufacture, distribute and market your product or to create a look alike product. Your company’s value is determined your ability to distinguish your product or service from others. This ability is contained in your Trade Secrets, and can be formally registered and protected in Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights. Governments of practically every nation have similar laws to help you protect your exclusive rights to the Intellectual Property that you develop as part of your business. Investment in your company’s Intellectual Property is the most important means to build value in your business.
As an attorney specializing in Intellectual Property I can help you build a portfolio of Intellectual Property to increase the value of your business.
Why protect your Intellectual Property?
If Intellectual Property is your business’ most valuable asset it should be protected. But patents, trademarks and copyrights can be expensive, especially if you have a multitude of assets that might be protected. All businesses, large or small, should protect those assets that are going to generate a profit. Profit is the real reason to protect your intellectual property. Before you file a patent or register a trademark or copyright look to your business plan and determine how you are going to make money off the patent, trademark or copyright. You might be making a product and the patent is on a feature that enables you to charge a higher price or even be the sole source of the product in the market place. You might have a licensee in mind that would license your patent. The higher price or exclusivity should translate to increased profit. The increased profit should fund the cost of protecting the Intellectual Property. Thus the reason to protect intellectual property is to protect your profit. If you cannot define a direct link between the intellectual property that your are trying to protect and your business profit then maybe (and it hurts to say this) you shouldn’t file that patent application.
Can investment in legal assistance have an ROI?
The short answer is absolutely yes. But many businesses have trouble measuring such a thing. Here’s a quick guide. The value of intellectual property is measured by several mnemonics. Use all three to confirm your estimate. The standard methods are cost, profit and market. Cost refers to the cost generating the intellectual property. However I don’t believe sunk costs is a good means to value anything. That money and effort cannot be recovered. All valuation techniques should look to the future, not the past. Cost should be evaluated on what it would cost someone to develop equivalent (equivalent in the ability to generate extra profit) technology. This is how a competitor or potential licensee would value your technology. They would first look to work around your invention and determine the cost of such an effort. The cost of this effort is one measure of the value of the intellectual property. The extra profit that the intellectual property enables is a second measure. How much extra profit is generated by your exclusive right to the intellectual property? This requires you to be able to predict sales as a function of features. It’s an estimate. The third and perhaps the most reliable is market. How much could you sell the intellectual property for? The value of any property is ultimately always what someone is willing to pay. If you aren’t selling but need an evaluation look to comps. Just like in real estate. What has been the value of similar deals? Evaluate all three: cost, profit and market. You should have a pretty good estimate of what the Intellectual Property is worth.
The cost to hire an attorney to help you protect that intellectual property should be a fraction of its value. If you are paying an attorney $10,000 to protect intellectual property valued at $5,000 or even $20,000 this is likely a bad deal. Keep in mind there is also a cost for enforcement of your rights. You might not need to go all the way to a million dollar patent infringement lawsuit but enforcement is not free.