These are unprecedented times for all businesses, with pressure to adapt to a constantly evolving ‘new normal’. With challenges to address on multiple fronts, here are four areas of focus to help ensure your intellectual property approach is aligned to your immediate business priorities.
1. DETERMINING BUSINESS CRITICAL ACTIVITIES
Operating under a more restrictive trading environment requires a more focussed approach to the projects and activities that are most likely to deliver for your business. This will involve streamlining your project pipeline and cutting out distractions, so that valuable resources are channelled into the most profitable and sustainable projects.
Start by determining how business critical each of your matters and live projects are – rank them high, medium, or low. Then apply a traffic light system, identifying which absolutely must continue during the current crisis, which can be paused for a short time, and which should be stopped. For live matters, keep track of the deadline extensions that have been introduced by IP offices around the world as a result of Covid-19 – they could prove useful when having to juggle priorities.
Do bear in mind though, that it remains incredibly important for IP to be protected during this period to avoid costly problems further down the line. For example, businesses of all sizes should be mindful of the fact that patents are, by their nature, slow burn, often with years passing between filing and grant. Curbing investment too excessively now could affect commercial advantages for many years to come.
2. CONSIDER A MORE COLLABORATIVE APPROACH
Even in the best of times, we understand that disputes can be an unwelcome distraction from your commercial priorities. Under the current circumstances, this is likely to be even more pronounced. Now, more than ever, it is important to undertake a risk assessment prior to starting any litigation, to consider the merits of pursuing a case versus the cost of taking action. If there is scope for a viable commercial settlement, give it serious consideration.
Alternative Dispute Resolution could prove particularly useful at this time and both arbitration and mediation bodies are operating remotely.
3. MANAGING RISK
As your business flexes to adapt, you may have had to make changes to the way you deliver your products and services. For example, some businesses may have been forced to move their manufacturing to a new location, or possibly alter the global transport routes to sale. As a result, IP protection may be needed in territories where it does not currently exist. Also, infringement risks might now have arisen in those new territories. Both short and long-term changes to IP strategies may be needed.
To overcome the challenges brought by social distancing, many businesses will now be offering goods and service digitally instead of in print and person. Pay attention to your registered trade marks to ensure these cover any changes that have been made to the way the business operates in view of the Covid-19 situation. Registrations made more than five years ago may not adequately cover digital goods and services.
4. PLANNING AHEAD
Innovation will not stop – successful industries in key technology areas including biotech, 5G, and AI may still be defined by work done during this period. There is an opportunity now to get ahead of the competition and use any additional time you have to think about future projects.
If new business opportunities have opened up for you, there may be important steps you need to take to support the long-term sustainability and future growth of your business. This could include clearance searches, freedom to operate assessments, filings to seek IP protection, or drafting commercial agreements. Now is the time to discuss new projects to ensure these opportunities are not missed and you are well prepared to take any necessary action.
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