World IP day is on April 26. Every year the IP industry, led by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) celebrates the day by raising awareness of the vital role IP rights in innovation and creativity.
World IP Day 2021 shines a light on the critical role of SMEs in the economy and how they can use IP rights to build stronger, more competitive, and resilient businesses.
Given that in the 21st century, the currency of the digital environment are business assets that are governed by IP laws, the role of IP is key.
I stressed the importance of early IP advice in my first book, Legally Branded published in 2012, and created this animation video to highlight the significance of IP. The video is particularly apt for World IP day 2021 centring as it does on IP and SMEs, which is this year’s World IP day focus.
The Azrights animation video
We are undergoing a quiet revolution is how the video opens. This is a reference to the digital economy, and the pace of this revolution has only increased now because of the Coronavirus.
The new currency in the digital world is information, ideas, know-how, brands, systems, and data.
Whether you’re starting a new business, building a brand identity or launching a new product or service worldwide, you’re also creating intellectual property. The value and safety of your intellectual property has become more important than ever before. Do it right and the intangible assets you create could be worth more than the products or services themselves. Do it wrong and you could miss vital opportunities, have your true value stolen or find yourself on the wrong side of an intellectual property dispute.
The right IP strategy will be decided based on your business model. You can safeguard your know-how, secure your contracts, or start franchising and licensing among many other things. Your IP creates a strong shield, allowing you to commercialise your business and safely participate in the market.
Turning Ideas Into a Business
Every business starts with an idea that takes shape in someone’s mind before making its way to market. Turning ideas into a business and brand involves using the tools of the IP system – trademarks, design rights, copyright, patents, and confidential information or trade secrets. It makes sense therefore to start your business journey by taking IP advice first.
While awareness of IP is higher than it was back in 2012, people commonly make these 3 fundamental mistakes with their ventures:
- They start with web developers, marketers, or designers, spending time and money thinking about their promotional approach, name logo and other visual designs. All these activities involve creating IP. However, if you’re not getting IP advice during this early stage you might give your best ideas away and fail to own the resulting IP rights in assets created for you. You also risk creating a liability for yourself instead of an asset.
- They assume that all they need is to file an application to register a trademark for their desired name, that lawyers are only needed, if at all, for actions like registering IP rights or drafting legal documents. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you risk overlooking something vital that could make a substantial difference to your fortunes.
- They do not get input on IP before creating brand assets, such as their brand name. The latest evidence-based research about How Brands Grow from Byron Sharp is that differentiation doesn’t last, whereas distinctiveness does. To develop a distinctive brand, you must protect and enforce your IP. This insight makes it imperative to consider IP strategically when deciding whether an asset your designer is proposing to create for you will be appropriate. Essentially if you lack the means to enforce your IP rights you should focus on creating IP assets that are strong and can be readily protected. Such assets are cheaper to enforce. Designers and marketers are not IP experts, so cannot fill this vacuum. IP input is essential and goes beyond undertaking legal availability searches and registering trademarks.
Having wondered what else is needed, apart from awareness raising, to change behaviours, I believe what is needed is improved professional education in IP. A brand management specialist IP lawyer that understands branding would provide the essential support SMEs need. Instead of being order takers who simply register rights or draft documents, they could be more proactive, and comment on the IP itself, enabling their clients to make better choices.
On the other hand, designers and marketers are not currently trained in IP. Training in IP would enable them to better support their clients and offer them a world class rounded service.
These are some of the conclusions I’ve drawn after writing my latest book Brand Tuned – the new rules of branding, strategy and intellectual property: SMEs need better support when in their implementation journey so that if they are unaware of IP, their designers, marketers or lawyers could fill the gap, ensuring IP is appropriately reflected in their branding.
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