Why every business plan should take account of intellectual property

Jane Lambert

In Basic Facts About Trademarks: What Every Small Business Should Know Now, Not Later, one of the best video introductions to trade mark law I know in any country, the presenter Mark Trademan (yes that really does appear to be his surname) of the US Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Information Unit asked an audience of entrepreneurs and small business owners how many of them had a business plan. A forest of hands shot up. "How many of you with business plans have a trade mark component?" asked Mr Trademan. Silence. "OK, I was afraid of that."

The response would have been no different had Mr Trademan given his presentation here even though our own Intellectual Property Office warn in Before you apply for a patent on the British government website that "it’s pointless patenting an invention unless you have a proper plan for making money from it and can defend it against copying."

Everybody knows that a business plan is

"the vital component for any business, providing potential lenders and investors with a roadmap of how your business will operate and how you will go about achieving your goals" (see What is a business plan? on the British Library's Business and IP Centre website).

So why should IP be integrated into your business plan? The World Intellectual Property Organization which is the United Nations specialist agency for intellectual property provides the answer in Practical IP Issues in Developing a Business Plan. Every business no matter how small nor how simple owns some kind of intellectual asset that is vital to its trade. It may simply be the name or reputation of its owner in the case of a retailer or a tried and trusted recipe for making sponge cake in the case of a tea shop or sandwich bar but if it attracts customers to the business it is an asset which needs protecting, managing and exploiting.

Conversely, a business may need to use the assets of somebody else's assets. A photo on the internet perhaps for the company website or maybe some software for the computer. It needs to plan how it is to acquire the right to use or even buy that asset and how much it is prepared to spend.  All of these matters are at least as important to the start-up as the lease to an office or the purchase of a delivery van.

So why don't more businesses take account of these matters when planning their business. Probably because nobody has told them to do so. Not every accountant or solicitor is IP savvy and certainly not every business adviser.

So what to do?  I'll be giving some talks on the topic on-line and in the regions.  I shall also be publishing information about it here and in my regional blogs. In the meantime you could read the WIPO publication and the Fact Sheet Intellectual Property and Business Plans from the European IPR Help Desk.

If you want to discuss this or any other topic on IP strategy give me a ring during office hours on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.


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