We hope this year's series of intellectual property related articles has provided helpful information about the rights available and how they can be used. The series has stimulated an interesting debate and we hope we have cleared at least some of the fog surrounding IP rights.

As we have tried to stress this year, IP is a valuable part of any company's worth. Like buildings, machines and stock, the ideas your business creates and uses are a key component of your commercial success. If you have a good product, service or idea – and one from which you are making money – there is every chance that someone, somewhere will want to copy you and enjoy similar commercial success.

IP rights are a means for companies to protect those ideas and, ultimately, to protect their business. In some cases, IP rights can provide a surprising source of alternative income in the form of licensing. Love them or hate them, they are a part of almost every industrial country's laws.

Over the course of the series, many readers raised concerns about the complexity and cost of protecting their technology – particularly so for small businesses. There is no doubt that protecting IP can be complex and, if handled without a commercial perspective, it can also be expensive. However, there are many ways in which costs can be minimised: be strategic in the way to protect your technology and bear in mind at all times the commercial realities of your business and your competitors.

Think about the following questions:

  • What aspects of your business/products give you a commercial advantage?
  • Why do customers use your services or buy your products?
  • Is it your brand, your reputation or your technology?
  • Where do you need to protect yourself?

These questions provide the foundation of an IP strategy. You can then work out how best to protect your business by applying the appropriate rights at the appropriate time and in the most cost effective manner. There are many ways to protect your IP and it need not cost as much as you might think.

Another important aspect we've addressed this year is the Patent Box. If you are struggling to get interest from management, remind them of this: Patent Box will reduce corporation tax for worldwide sales of patented products. However, a different patenting strategy is required.

Normally, patent applications are written in order to ring fence technology, meaning we try to make the scope broad. For patent applications for the Patent Box, we can seek a narrower scope, covering a specific product. This minimises the cost of obtaining the patent, reduces the chances of the patent being challenged and optimises your chances of benefitting from the generous corporation tax relief available from 1 April 2013.

A question that arose frequently over the year was that of access to patent information. A complete list of useful links is available at www.dyoung.com/internet-links.

Of particular relevance is a database called 'espacenet', which offers keyword, subject and title searches on millions of patents and patent applications.

First Published in New Electronics