Case Study: The Importance of Legally Protecting your Intellectual Property
In the knowledge-oriented economy we live in today, leading companies must recognise that “Innovation without protection is philanthropy”. Stokes Lawyers Special Counsel, Brett Nelson, has many cautionary tales to tell from his experience advising clients internationally, including some of the largest companies in Asia. The following article demonstrates the importance of protecting your intellectual property to ensure your company does not make its ‘single biggest mistake’.
From “Santa Maria Style”on the central coast of California to Carolina “whole-hog”, many areas in the United States of America produce unique and tasty barbecue.
In Texas, barbecue usually includes brisket. While smoked brisket is now seen as a premium meat, prior to the 1950s, brisket, with its high fat and connective tissue content, was often given away to ranch hands for free. However, people will now wait many hours and pay a premium for brisket that is seasoned with a heavy layer of salt and pepper and slowly smoked until the meat is juicy and extremely tender.
Some Texas pitmasters even have their own secret sauce that may include using a particular binder or injection, covering the meat with tallow, or including garlic, chili flake or other seasoning in their rub. Each pitmaster has figured out the right combination of smoke and enhancers to entice the public to choose to frequent their particular restaurant.
In other words, a large piece of meat that at one point in history was given away has become incredibly valuable once properly seasoned and slowly smoked for several hours.
Tools of Intellectual Property
The various tools of intellectual property can have a similar effect for a company. In the world we live in today, it is essential that companies acknowledge that “Innovation without protection is philanthropy,” Mark Blaxill.
Without adequately protecting its innovations, a company could be simply giving away their valuable technology, potentially resulting in the inability for that company to fully recoup the resources expended on innovation, let alone profit from such innovation.
Just like our case example above, free brisket likely fed many ranch hands back in the day, dedicating one’s technology to the public could also provide value to some. However, like the smoked and seasoned brisket, innovation that is properly protected could dramatically increase the value of the innovations and provide substantially increased value to both the creators and end users.
Prior to protection, a company’s intellectual property could be simply defined as know-how (an argument could also be made that the know-how is simply a form of trade secret). Moreover, the various tools that may be used to protect such know-how may include:
- trade secrets;
- trademarks and
Furthermore, consideration should be given as to how each of the above tools can be used to strategically protect a company’s know-how.
Patents and trade secrets
Patents and trade secrets could be used in combination to protect various aspects of a company’s innovation. For example, core mobile phone technology, the phone itself, or novel methods of using and making the phone may be protected by one or more patent(s), while post patent filing improvements not worth the expense of patenting and/or not easily reverse engineered could be protected as a trade secret.
Trademarks and copyrights
Similarly, trademarks and copyrights can be powerful tools for protecting a company’s brand and technology. Marketing language associated with the product and intended to represent the source of the mobile phone may be protected by one or more trademarks and related code could be protected by copyright.
The value of Intellectual Property
Companies, whether startups or multinational brands, would be wise to develop a culture that understands the value of protecting intellectual property.
Instead of viewing intellectual property protection as a cost, wise companies understand that their patents, trade-secrets, trademarks and copyrights are valuable assets that can be monetized.
Key Take Away Message
As such, companies would be wise to work with skilled intellectual property solicitors that, like barbecue pitmasters who understand how to use seasoning and smoke to create prized brisket, understand how to properly use each intellectual property tool in a manner that aligns with the company’s technology.
Of even greater potential benefit to companies is being able to work with intellectual property experts that understand the company’s business goals, in addition to the law surrounding the intellectual property.
Working together with business savvy intellectual property solicitors as early as possible in a company’s growth cycle can provide tremendous advantages to such company as it seeks to grow and create value for its shareholders, employees and customers alike.
For advice or information about protecting your intellectual property, contact Special Counsel, Brett Nelson, at [email protected] or phone 3439 8880.
 For those unfamiliar with this term, Santa Maria-style is a style of cooking where meat is cooked directly over fire in an open pit grill.
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