Cost of Intellectual Property

They say you get what you pay for and this is certainly the case with Intellectual Property. There is the paid protection approach and the laissez faire e.g. technical innovation patent compared to trade secret/know-how, registered trademark compared to reputation/passing off and registered design compared to unregistered designs/copyright.

Broadly, the paid approach gives the owner a right which is defined on paper by an examination process, so the right has at least been tested whilst an unregistered right needs a Court to define the scope of it before arguments about infringement and normal validity. Paid for rights should cost less to enforce but this is not always the case, particularly with two litigants with deep pockets.

The real cost of Intellectual Property rights, probably outside of the rarified worlds of biotech, pharma, and some high-tech industries, is the leverage they provide. For a relatively modest outlay, your innovation and more importantly, your expertise is put in the world’s shop window.

A single UK patent application will be published in 18 months or maybe earlier and that publication will be distributed worldwide on patent databases. The UK application may be dropped or only give protection in the UK if granted, but the benefits of bringing you to the attention of potential collaborators cannot be ignored.

Most inventions have some know-how behind them and need resources to exploit the invention. You only need to look at all the innovation hubs and investment angels to realise that to get an invention to market does not just need technical expertise – it needs acts and financial muscle.

Unpaid for rights by their nature are cheap at the outset, but for an SME or individual the IP budget could be merged with the marketing and PR budgets. Most major players will have a tracking service mainly to track their competitors but also innovations in their industry.

The SME or individual can send countless letters to potential collaborators in the hope they will be seen by the relevant people but with a published patent flagged on a watching service, whether internal or external, it is more likely to be seen. It is the old situation of people being more interested in what they find themselves than what is pushed in front of them without invitation.