Natalia Lukaszewicz, CENSIS Business Development Manager and author of our new white paper on Intellectual Property in business, reflects on the key points around getting IP right first time
Intellectual property (IP) is the lifeblood of start-up companies. Yet, while it is so important for SMEs and entrepreneurs, managing IP can be a slow and challenging process. The key to doing it successfully is to be patient.
Despite IP’s increasing relevance for the business and tech communities, many people seem almost afraid of dealing with it. There’s such a wide range of business literature available that makes complex subjects digestible – or even fun. But, still, the sections on IP are not treated in the same way, leaving a gap for an easy-to-use resource to support businesses’ understanding of IP.
That’s why I have produced the first CENSIS whitepaper, Intellectual Property in business: IP basics, IP management, IP strategy, that includes chapters for businesses at different stages, and an action list they can run through to tick off the key steps. The paper aims to provide an overview and step-by-step guidance for approaching IP strategy and we hope that it will be particularly useful for Scottish start-ups, spin-outs and SMEs – especially in the tech sector.
Whitepapers can sometimes be very theoretical, but my goal was to make IP digestible and less intimidating – providing easily accessible and practical advice. While for some it may raise more questions than answers, it is designed to be a tool to help companies develop an IP strategy that sits side-by-side with their business plan.
There are many factors to consider as part of IP management, so to get started here are a few top tips:
- Start keeping a record of IP
Record-keeping doesn’t require a sophisticated tool to get started – a simple Excel spreadsheet will do the job. If information isn’t documented then it is difficult to prove that it exists, and in a worst-case scenario, prove that it has been leaked. Note down as much detail as possible and, of course, store your records securely.
- Use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) when the time is right
Never ask for an NDA before the first meeting with a potential customer or partner. You want to speak with as many people as possible and it is standard practice to arrange an initial meeting without one, keeping the discussion on a high level. Consider creating two versions of a pitch deck: one for sharing without an NDA, the other including confidential information (only after an NDA has been signed).
- Map out your strategy using a framework such as my Business IP Canvas
The Business Model Canvas by Osterwalder is one of the most popular entrepreneurial methodologies that many start-ups are familiar with. This adaptation for IP includes various questions and points for consideration to help you set out your strategy in one clear, comprehensive table.