Times have indeed changed, and along with this change has come a time when the commercial use of ideas or knowledge otherwise known as intellectual property (I.P) has turned out to be an essential asset to the success of many enterprises. In the past, intangible assets were not given as much credit for the development and success of any enterprise. It was considered that it is the physical asset – infrastructure, machinery, equipment, property or any such assets that have material presence, that leads to the overall growth of the enterprise.
However, with the advancement and increased use of information technology and the growing significance of IT-based products and the upcoming service industry, the intangible assets have gained significant importance and value as compared to the physical asset of any enterprise. Some of these intangible assets include brand names, patents, trademarks, leases, computer programs, customer lists, franchise agreements, domain names or trade secrets etc.
Once an enterprise has developed and accumulated its own I.P either in form of copyright works, distinctive branding (trademarks) or patents or even designs, it is now faced with the issue of having to maintain and develop the their profitability while guarding them against any possible risks. A risk in this context is a probability of something going wrong, or the occurrence of a loss or damage to that I.P thereby resulting in a harmful impact to the interests of the entire enterprise. The harmful impact could be in the form of actual financial loss or in the form of loss in business reputation resulting in the loss of its revenue.
What most enterprises, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) should know is that, their acquisition of I.P protection should not be a final step by the enterprise in the management of such I.P. If the I.P is so valuable to the enterprise’s business interests, then measures to ensure its security should be implemented. Assessing the I.P related risks before hand and proactively mitigating them will be advantageous in the survival of the I.P.
Furthermore, in order to address the risks and effectively implement any mitigating strategies, it is important to know where the risk may come from. I.P targeted risks may come from the enterprise’s competitors. In the quest for competitive advantage competitors may infringe an enterprise’s I.P immensely and it is upon the enterprise to take rapid legal action to stop this. Another risk source could even be from internal stuff or employees of the enterprise. An enterprise should develop internal I.P regulating policies and include its employment contracts provisions relating the handling and management its critical I.P information by the stuff and employees so as to safeguard its interests, further to this also design appropriate steps to be taken in the instance of non-compliance or breach. Other risk sources could be the government or independent third parties who are not even its competitors.
It is therefore upon the individual enterprise to set up various mitigating strategies to ensure the effective tackling of any I.P related risk to their business.