Does Intellectual Property (IP) Need a Rebrand?

Does IP need rebrandIn my post last week, I mentioned that Intellectual Property (IP) has an image problem and might need a rebrand.

There are lots of reasons I think IP has an image problem. For example, a marketer friend once advised me to remove intellectual property from the title of something I was creating because he thought the topic is boring for people. This shocked me at the time and made quite an impression.

So, recently when I was choosing the title of my new book, I tried hard to avoid mentioning intellectual property in the title. My publisher encouraged me to change the title I initially proposed, to the current one Brand Tuned – The New Rules of Branding, Strategy and Intellectual Property. Given I am an IP lawyer and that is one of the benefits of the book is how intellectual property is relevant to branding, I could immediately see her point. The words had to appear in the title.

Relevance of Intellectual Property

I do realise the subject either does not mean anything to many people or is perceived as boring or largely irrelevant.

I’ve been trying to analyse where these notions come from.

I think there is an assumption that IP is confusing, technical, and expensive. Some people assume it is this esoteric body of law that operates in its own sphere and whose practitioners rarely travel outside their own little IP bubble. In fact, it is just the opposite.

More than any other area of law, intellectual property issues pop up all the time. In the digital world we live in there is not much that IP laws do not bleed into.

After all, IP is intrinsic to business, it is part and parcel of it, not something separate from it. Also, IP surrounds some of the most important aspects of our daily lives.

Is it worth investing in IP?

Another thing people wonder is whether it would be worthwhile to invest time or money in IP, particularly in the early stages of their business. They may believe it is relevant later such as when they are close to selling the business, but they assume there are more important priorities to address in the meantime.

This notion that you would not want to give much thought to IP in the early stages instead of later, may be why its relevance to branding is often missed. People invest large sums of money in branding without understanding the interplay between IP and brand. They are creating IP when they develop their brand. IP is intrinsic to what they are doing. Its creation as well as its protection determines whether you can stand out in the market and maintain your distinctiveness.

Updating perspective on IP

While there must be a myriad number of reasons why IP has the perception it currently has, a more accurate view of IP needs to emerge.

For a business considering its brand and IP, it is important to understand that IP sits at the intersection between marketing, business, and branding. The areas of IP that are most relevant to brands are trademarks, copyright, and designs. But maybe identifying the IP rights by name instead of discussing the contexts in which IP is relevant is the wrong approach.

One reason why I am writing my new book is to make it clearer to marketers, designers, and businesses how IP impacts branding. Building your brand on solid foundations involves taking account of IP risks and opportunities very early on, so you avoid the need to undo ill-considered actions. Leaving IP till you’re ready to sell your business is completely the wrong approach, but perhaps that is a subject for another day.

Shireen Smith , advises SMEs on how to turn ideas for new business concepts, products or services into protectable IP. Building a business on strong legal and IP foundations is how you increase the value of a business. For help to create, identify, protect, and defend your business assets.

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