Valuing your intellectual property - survey results

Following a recent online survey on IP undertaken by Eureka and D Young & Co, Anthony Albutt, partner with the firm, gives his thoughts on the findings.

The key findings We were delighted with the number of responses to our recent intellectual property survey conducted in collaboration with D Young & Co. Our sincere thanks go to all readers who participated and shared their thoughts and concerns with us. The range of opinion from companies of all sizes was quite incredible. The results emphasised a number of common themes and concerns in UK industry about various aspects of intellectual property. The sheer number of responses means that unfortunately we are unable to deal with all of the questions and concerns readers have raised in a single article. In order to maximise the value of the survey, from October, D Young & Co's website will contain a customised Question & Answer section dealing with specific questions and issues identified in the survey. What you said… The results highlighted that the majority of businesses regularly assess the value of their intellectual property assets (albeit at varying time scales). In particular... 92% of respondents know what IP they own 83% believe IP is of importance to their company 66% consider IP when designing products 66% consider that they understand IP issues However, in spite of numbers which suggest a good level of knowledge about IP and the perceived value to the company, only 48% thought that their IP assets where adequately protected and only 55% thought they exploited their IP assets effectively. It begs the question; if so many companies believe IP is important to them and that they know what assets they own, then why do so many feel that they are not adequately protected or are unable to exploit their IP assets effectively? What can be the reason for the mismatch? Companies answering the survey fall broadly into two categories: 1. Companies that actively try to protect their IP in some way 2. Companies that take no action Looking at the first group, common concerns are cost, complexity and the perceived uncertainty of the IP system. Many respondents complained about the cost of obtaining patent protection in terms of legal fees paid to attorneys as well as government fees. There is no denying that protecting IP rights can be expensive, but remember that a patent is a legal document defining a monopoly for your company within a market. That monopoly can last for 20 years, giving your company an enormous competitive advantage. That said, there are many ways to control costs and you need to be tactical in selecting the elements of the IP that you seek protection for and how you do it. For example, registered designs are cheap, fast and cover all of Europe in a single application. They also allow you to prevent imports into the European Union. Perhaps this would provide the deterrent your competitors need? This is just one example and we will focus on strategy and cutting costs in our next IP article. The issue of enforcement costs was also identified by a large number of respondents. High Court litigation is indeed expensive, but what many companies don't realise is that the Patents County Court was specifically set up to limit costs. It is proving a very popular forum which is fast, largely paper based and has caps on legal cost. It is ideal for SMEs. There is a misconception that enforcing your rights will always be expensive. Not so. We will deal with this issue and your options in a forthcoming article on enforcement. In terms of 'uncertainty', there is a feeling among a number of respondents that patents are worthless because they can be 'broken' or bypassed. Again, there is some truth here. An invalid patent can be revoked and careful analysis of weak patents can sometimes allow you to 'design around' them. This is the skill of the attorney. There is a balance in drafting a patent: too broad and it is likely to be invalid, too narrow and it exposes you to the possibility of design arounds. Be clear with your patent attorney about your commercial needs; remember that a patent is a commercial tool and not an academic exercise for your attorney to 'claim the world'. If you think a patent is too good to be true, there is every chance it isn't valid. Turning briefly to the second group of companies (those who do not seek any protection at all); the issues raised were mainly lack of enough knowledge or resource. Here, at least in terms of knowledge, we hope the D Young & Co article series is providing some assistance. It is clear from the survey that in general, UK companies do understand and appreciate the value of protecting the IP assets they own. The results also highlight that many misconceptions and misunderstandings exist, particularly in terms of how IP assets can be efficiently and effectively employed in a commercially valuable way. This continuing IP series will hopefully bring down some of these barriers. In summary, your patent attorney should be able to help you devise a sensible IP strategy for your business that fits within your legal budget. Be challenging. It's always good to remember that any strategy must always be aligned with the commercial interests and future direction of the business. By sharing this information with your patent attorney, you will better equipped to confront any future threats to your IPRs. Finally, the lucky winner of the prize draw for the Archos Arnova 10b G" Tablet PC is Paul Palmer-Baker, Innovation & Development Manager of Micro Matic Ltd. Congratulations, Paul. We hope you have many hours of fun and enjoyment using it. For more information, please contact Anthony Albutt, partner with D Young & Co, at