Most of us approach the Easter break with resolutions to spring clean our homes, sort out our gardens or otherwise declutter our lives, and our working lives are not much different. Busy desks and inboxes, meetings and to-do lists; it's no wonder that we often leave the 'big' projects for quieter times.
If you're looking for a good project to get your teeth into after the bank holidays, then you could do worse than choosing your IP portfolio. Frequently bloated with unused registrations or starved with gaps in coverage, spring cleaning your IP via a detailed audit could help you to identify ways to streamline your portfolio, saving you money while also improving the efficiency of your assets.
Where to begin Many companies estimate the healthiness and relative worth of their IP portfolios based on size alone. However, those IP rights will be worth far less if the following checks and balances aren't also considered. We find that many companies can reduce their spending on IP matters and ringfence the strength of their rights by auditing their IP portfolios, using the following three-step process.
Step 1: Review your IP records and data for accuracy The data in your IP portfolio needs to be accurate and up-to-date, otherwise you may find that you don't quite own the rights that you think you do. Taking the time now to cleanse, update and rationalise your IP data can save you both time and money in the long-run, as it will identify errors in the records, as well as unnecessary costs such as duplicate registrations (e.g between national and EUTM rights).
Centralising IP ownership can also help you to avoid unnecessary costs and risks, e.g. due to refusals or duplicate records. This also enables companies to file oppositions or to act against infringement on behalf of one formal party, instead of being forced to initiate double procedures in case of decentralised ownership.
Step 2: Audit your IP portfolio for value A regular IP audit enables you to assess the value of your portfolio against the costs involved in growing and maintaining the IP rights it contains. It helps to identify, for example, trademark rights that are being renewed despite never being used, as well as gaps in protection, which might leave a company exposed. To undertake this audit, we would first recommend:
- Reviewing your IP strategy to ensure that it takes into account your strategic business goals;
- Prioritising your IP rights (e.g. between ‘core’ and ‘non-core’), and markets (countries and goods/services) based on current branding/R&D strategy and future plans;
- Auditing licensing and royalty agreements to ensure that the rights have been correctly maintained and the revenues received; and
- Reviewing your supplier list to see if it is possible to generate further cost savings by consolidating your IP portfolio with one provider.
Step 3: Conduct regular healthchecks Completing an IP audit is only the first step in what should be a regular programme of portfolio reviews. By conducting audits at regular intervals (ideally at least every six months), you can ensure that your portfolio continues to evolve as your business does, and it could also identify additional savings in the future; for example, by:
- Merging registrations;
- Allowing possible duplicate (local) registrations to lapse; and
- Identifying unexploited rights that could be sold, licensed or allowed to lapse.