We all know the importance of launching new, original, distinctive value proposals on the market. Before you take this step and launch your new business, it is essential you think carefully about the distinguishing elements of your future business, those which will enable you to stand out from the competition. You will find identifying and protecting these a simple task with the help and advice of an intellectual property expert and by following these simple tips.
1. If you believe your idea, method or business model is innovative, creative or original, protect it. To do this, we recommend you keep them confidential. This means, taking steps such as including confidentiality conditions before delivering presentations and signing confidentiality agreements with potential partners, investors, collaborators, suppliers and clients, before making them party to any information about your project. Remember! Any leaks or unauthorised disclosure may have a detrimental effect on your market value.
We also recommend you find out whether any of the available intellectual property protection measures are of use to you. These range from including a copyright clause in your documents, files and on media that contain your idea, method or business model, or registering it with the intellectual property registry. Although both these measures are simple and cost very little, they will certainly help you to prove that you are the real creator of the project, and therefore the holder of all rights deriving from its use, should the need arise.
2. Analyse if the trade mark you have chosen for your brand image is similar to other existing brands which have already been registered by third parties. This includes both words and graphics. If no significant similarities are identified, apply to register your brand in the countries and territories you are interested in before launching your products and services. Keep watch for unauthorised third party use of your brand or other components of your corporate image, especially online.
3. Register the main domain names associated with your brand (.com, .es, or directly related to your activity: .hotels, .fashion, etc.) and protect all the other components of your corporate image (presentations, catalogues, designs, drawings, packaging, etc.). Include copyright and legal notices and conditions of use on your website.
4. Analyse your company's critical knowledge and, if possible, protect it by patenting or by business secret, if not. Tailor the level of protection you award your critical knowledge to your budget and to your business strategy, prioritising according to your short, medium and long-term objectives. Lastly, analyse the likelihood of this knowledge infringing third-party rights in your target markets. It is important you seek expert help in this area.
5. Design a knowledge protection policy that governs your internal relationships (with partners, investors and staff) and external relationships, to ensure that your knowledge assets are used appropriately and not disclosed without your expressed permission. The measures you implement will sometimes depend on the specific nature of the knowledge to protect, and at other times on the specific situation of your company.
6. Make sure that your real and potential staff, investors, suppliers, partners, clients and collaborators are fully aware of your knowledge protection policy. The first step to giving your company's intellectual property the protection it needs is to ensure that all these people know how important it is to you that they recognise, value and respect it.
7. Include intellectual property protection and management in your business plan and any possible expansion or internationalisation plans.
8. Keep an eye out for opportunities in your surroundings for offering your technology to third parties or for incorporating third party technologies in your company. Remember that the market is increasingly globalised and that there are ever more opportunities to collaborate with other companies. Even organisations that may initially seem like potential competitors may become your allies through collaboration and exchange.
9. Analyse the potential of exploiting your knowledge via transfer agreements (license or assignment, engineering, franchising, outsourcing, technical assistance, training, etc). These are efficient ways of developing your business while levering your main business asset.
10. If you believe that your critical knowledge is also the essence of your project, quantify that value. In some cases you should recognise it in your assets, but most of all, it is a tool for negotiating with possible partners, investors, collaborators or clients. You should be able to evaluate the value of your knowledge in euros, otherwise you will never know how much it would have cost you not to have had it.