Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about Intellectual Property Asset Management

Why use an outsourced business development/intellectual property advisory resource?

Often internal resources, for all types of companies and organisations, can be stretched and day-to-day operations and fire-fighting can be all consuming, leaving little or no time to plan, implement long-term strategic goals, and address those special projects that should have been done yesterday.

Using an outsourced additional resource can provide:

  • Efficient, cost-effective use of qualified resources
  • Focus internal resources on what they do best
  • Leverage third-party expertise to "jump start" strategic initiatives and manage special projects
  • Priority handling of critical tasks in a timely manner
  • Time for focus on strategic business initiatives
  • Access to specialised intellectual property resources with minimal commitment and impact on overhead costs
  • Impartial, third-party validation of business strategies

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Why is intellectual property so important to businesses?

In the increasingly knowledge-driven economy, intellectual property (IP) is a key consideration in day-to-day business decisions. Adequate protection of intellectual property is a vital step in turning ideas into business assets with a real market value and deterring potential infringement. Taking full advantage of the intellectual property system enables companies to profit from their innovative capacity and creativity, which encourages and helps fund further innovation.
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How does intellectual property increase competitiveness?

Many new products or services embody different types of intellectual property. Forward-looking enterprises face the challenge of extracting the latent value of their intellectual property and using it effectively in their business strategy. By dedicating time and resources to protecting their intellectual property assets organisations can increase their competitiveness in a variety of ways.
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Why do organisations need an intellectual property management strategy?

Effective intellectual property management enables companies to use their intellectual property assets to improve their competitiveness and strategic advantage. Acquiring intellectual property protection is a crucial initial step, but effective IP management means more than just protecting an enterprise's inventions, trademarks, designs, or copyright. It also involves a company's ability to commercialise such inventions, market its brands, license its know-how, conclude joint ventures and other contractual agreements involving IP, and effectively monitor and enforce its intellectual property rights.

A company's portfolio of intellectual property must be viewed as a collection of key assets that add significant value to the enterprise. Managing intellectual property effectively and using it to devise business strategies is an increasingly critical task for entrepreneurs worldwide.

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General Questions about intellectual property

What is "intellectual property" or "IP"?

The terms IP and intellectual property are shorthand terms which refer to a range of rights in inventions, designs or other matter which results from the mind or intellectual effort. Not every idea is capable of legal protection however. IP or intellectual property rights which can be protected by include:
  • patents (for new inventions for products or processes);
  • trade marks (for brands including words, phrases, logos and pictures, to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another);
  • designs (for the shape or appearance of an item);
  • copyright (for original material in literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works, video, multimedia and computer programs);
  • plant breeder's rights; and
  • confidentiality/trade secrets including know-how and other confidential or proprietary information (this is usually protected through contract).
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What is a patent?

A Patent is a statutory right to the exclusive use of an invention. That is, it gives the patent owner the right to prevent others from making, selling, using or importing the invention for as long as the patent remains in force.

A patent is effective only in the country in which it is granted (but may extend to territories to which the laws of that country apply).

For an invention to be considered patentable, it must satisfy the basic criteria of being new and useful. In general, the invention should be of an industrial, commercial or trading character, as opposed to a purely artistic or intellectual exercise. The invention is required to be novel and involve an inventive step having regard to what is known or used at the time when the patent application is first filed.

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How much do patents cost?

The costs of patents may be divided into four types of costs:
  1. Applications costs: the costs relating to the application fees and other prosecution fees paid to the national or regional patent offices. Such costs may vary widely from country to country (information on the fees may be obtained directly from the national IP offices) and are typically lower than the other costs referred to below.
  2. Patent attorney costs: costs relating to patent attorneys/agents who assist in drafting the patent application. While the use of a patent attorney/agent is usually optional (unless the applicant is not residing in the country and the law requires that he be represented by an attorney or agent admitted in the country), it is generally advisable to seek legal advice when drafting a patent document. Patent attorney fees will vary significantly from country to country.
  3. Translation Costs. Such costs are only relevant when seeking IP protection in foreign countries whose official language is different from the language in which the application has been prepared and may prove to be high, especially for highly technical patent applications.
  4. Maintenance or Annuity costs: the cost of maintaining applications and patents through payments to the individual national patent offices. Such fees are usually paid at regular intervals (e.g. every year or once every five years) in order to maintain the application or the patent. Protecting patents for the entire term of protection (in general, 20 years) in various countries may prove an expensive undertaking, also taking into account that annual maintenance fees are usually increasing the longer the protection is maintained. Typical such costs can be more than 70% of the total costs of a patent over its life time.
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What is Open Innovation?

The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or innovations (e.g. IP) from other companies. In addition, internal inventions not being used in a firm's business should be taken outside the company (e.g. through licensing, joint ventures, spin-offs).
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