Protecting intellectual assets is often accomplished by converting them into one of four types of intellectual property. The distinction is that intellectual property is an asset class whose rights are carefully defined and if violated can be litigated in a court of law. Intellectual assets on the other hand can be valuable to a Corporation but these rights may not be enforced in court.
From an examination of the corporation’s strategy and the key intellectual asset holdings of the corporation, appropriate protective rights can be identified and a plan for their acquisition and maintenance can be formulated. Among the parameters considered in the protection of intellectual assets are: the nature of the asset, the scope of its value generating capabilities, and the geographic scope of its markets. Having identified these parameters the process turns to formalization of legal rights and other affirmative actions necessary to maintain those rights. This phase of the process is ongoing and includes regular review and updating of goals and strategies, with input from the business, technical and marketing perspectives.
The protection process begins with the identification of existing and desired assets. They should be identified through the formulation of an overall intellectual assets strategy. For large organizations this is more typically done by identifying those assets which can protect current and future revenue streams of key products and services the company offers. Remember the 80/20 role. For large organization focusing on 20% of the assets that create 80% of the revenue and profits is a productive place to start.
The nature of the asset determines the type of IP protection:
Form of Protection
Knowledge and Technology Utility Patent or Secrecy
Design and Appearance Design Patent and/or Copyright
Publishable Materials Copyright
Image and Identity Trademark
It is not unusual for a single product to encompass a variety of different assets, and hence require several forms of protection. For example, a computer software product may include patented technology, copyrighted source code and manuals, and corporate names and symbols subject to trademark protection.
Once the types of assets are identified, their strategic roles are examined and parameters of protection are designed. Tailored protection is then obtained through processes of application and registration. In addition, the firm must undertake other actions necessary to preserve its entitlement to those rights. Both the manner in which protection is obtained and the manner in which its availability may be lost depend on which of the four types of protection sought.