How to manage your IP portfolio at this time: Top tips for inhouse counsel

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As we all adapt to working through a global pandemic, some of the things that may otherwise have made it to the top of your to-do list might well have slipped off it. Don’t let the management of your intellectual property portfolio be one of them.

Here are five tips for things you can do now, to ensure you keep your IP on track during these far from normal times.

1.       Review deadlines associated with your IP

Successful IP registration and renewal are deadline-driven activities. Missed deadlines can be costly; they can mean the difference between securing the protection your business requires or losing protection and the associated competitive advantage the business already has.

Whether you are in the process of securing protection for a new patent or trade mark, or renewing existing registered IP rights, it’s essential to regularly review and diarise any deadlines associated with your IP.

And allow as much time as possible before a deadline to work through any issues or submission requirements with your IP attorney. While most (but not all) IP offices allow extensions in certain circumstances, these come at a cost and you still need to show that it was your intent to meet the deadline, or that it was missed for reasons beyond your control.

2.       Revisit your IP strategy if your business changes

Many businesses are having to pivot on their go-to-market strategy to deal with uncertain trading conditions.

If your business is making significant changes to its plans – for example, delaying or accelerating the launch of new products or services – it would pay to revisit your IP strategy at the same time.

There may be opportunities to register and protect new IP rights resulting from the innovation coming out of your business at this time. Equally, you may decide that previous plans you had to protect your IP in certain countries are no longer appropriate, or can be deferred to a later date.

It’s always a good idea to keep a watching brief on your overarching IP strategy while you adapt to rapidly changing business circumstances.

3.       Rethink your IP risks and plan accordingly

Significant disruptions to your company’s supply chain, customer base, revenues or labour force, will inevitably serve up a new set of potential IP risks to mitigate and prioritise against.

If you’re in a business that is heavily dependent on a portfolio of branded consumer products, for example – you will want to weigh up those that are critical to the ongoing success of your business and ensure you continue to protect their IP.

Similarly, if you’re innovating and inventing new products or services to capitalise on emerging market opportunities, you will want to ensure you don’t disclose your ideas prematurely. Many companies thrive in adverse conditions. If yours is one of these, try and keep the IP implications of what you’re doing on your risk radar.

4.       Reinforce IP awareness internally

Remote working is likely to have changed the way you and your team or colleagues communicate on a day to day basis. Businesses that have invested substantial sums of money in creating new brands, or in R&D and patents, are sitting on high-value IP assets.

Maintaining the value of these assets is as much about the internal processes that you put in place, as the more formal external processes required to protect and enforce them.

Ensure your wider internal team remains IP-aware with a regular and open communication channel back to your legal team, and if necessary, your external IP provider.

5.       Remain informed and ready to act

Whether you have a large IP portfolio, or a few vital IP assets to protect and maintain, trusted and expert IP advice is essential.

Your external IP provider can help cut through the challenges of managing the complexities of the IP process, while providing a good sounding-board on the strategic and commercial implications of any changes you may need to make to your IP strategy during these times.

They will also guide you on the right actions to take, and when, and can keep you current and informed of any issues that may impact your plans or portfolio.

With these simple tips, you can ensure that your IP house is kept in order, while you navigate your way to better times.

Complimentary IP discussion

The current business environment is throwing a range of challenges, and many businesses are grappling with IP issues. To help navigate these challenges, James & Wells is offering inhouse counsel complimentary sessions to help answer IP related questions. These can cover a range of IP issues, including whether now is the right time to renew existing IP rights, secure protection for a new idea or brand, or IP issues relevant to entering a new export market. To book a no obligation chat, please contact