It would be inexcusable for a company to have no idea of the value of its inventory or plant and equipment. But, in fact, many companies know neither the full extent of intellectual (intangible) properties they own nor what they are worth. Many specific responsibilities for managing intellectual property fall to the human resources, legal and IT functions. But the finance function should coordinate and verify these efforts as it does with payroll, employee benefits and inventory Ultimately, protecting IP is everyone's responsibility. Consider these top action items for protecting your company's intellectual property:
[check] Inventory all intellectual property. At a minimum, inventory all IP assets and identify those intangible assets that are most critical to your business. Ideally, companies should perform periodic audits of IP. They are a must when significant events occur such as public/private offerings, mergers and acquisitions, or pending lawsuits. As part of an IP audit, quantify the value of the intangible assets as well as examine and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in the procedures to protect each intangible asset.
[check] Prioritize an action plan for correcting deficiencies and reducing risk identified in inventorying/auditing IP. Form a plan to capture future IP rights developed and acquired.
[check] Consider insurance strategies. First, consider potential claims. Speak to commercial insurance brokers and discuss various policies that might be appropriate. These could include IP defensive insurance, IP value insurance, patent enforcement insurance, and technical transfer insurance.
[check] Have basic agreements in place and ensure they're used. These include nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), proprietary information agreements and independent contractor agreements. Have vendors and customers sign NDAs. Don't forget to have interview candidates sign an applicant nondisclosure agreement and have future employees read and sign an employee representation letter that assigns all IP rights to the employer.