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IP Cases & Commentary – Details

1 October 2012

Valuing IP - UK Industry Survey Results

Anthony Albutt

DYoung & Co recently collaborated with Eureka (‘the magazine for engineering design’) to run an IP survey, seeking to gain insight into the approach that UK industry takes to various aspects of intellectual property. We were delighted with the number of responses to our survey. The range of opinion from companies of all sizes was quite incredible. The results emphasised a number of common themes and concerns in UK industry about various aspects of intellectual property. In order to maximise the value of the survey we will soon be publishing a ‘Question & Answer’ section on our website (www.dyoung.com) dealing with specific questions and issues identified in the survey.

Survey results

The results highlighted that the majority of businesses regularly assess the value of their intellectual property assets (albeit at varying time scales). In particular:

  • 92% of respondents know what IP they own
  • 83% believe IP is of importance to their company
  • 66% consider IP when designing products
  • 66% consider that they understand IP issues 

However, in spite of numbers which suggest a good level of knowledge about IP and the perceived value to the company, only 48% thought that their IP assets were adequately protected and only 55% thought they exploited their IP assets effectively.

It begs the question; if so many companies believe IP is important to them and that they know what assets they own, then why do so many feel that they are not adequately protected or are unable to exploit their IP assets effectively?

What can be the reason for the mismatch?

Common concerns are cost, complexity and the perceived uncertainty of the IP system. Many respondents complained about the cost of obtaining patent protection in terms of legal fees paid to attorneys as well as government fees. There is no denying that protecting IP rights can be expensive, but remember that a patent is a legal document defining a monopoly for your company within a market. That monopoly can last for 20 years, giving your company an enormous competitive advantage.

That said, there are many ways to control costs and companies need to be tactical in selecting the elements of the IP that they seek protection for and how they do it.

The issue of enforcement costs was also identified by a large number of respondents. High Court litigation is indeed expensive, but what many companies don’t realise is that the Patents County Court was specifically set up to limit costs. It is proving a very popular forum which is fast, largely paper based and has caps on legal cost. It is ideal for SMEs.

In terms of ‘uncertainty’ there is a feeling among respondents that patents are worthless because they can be ‘broken’ or bypassed. Again, there is some truth here. An invalid patent can be revoked and careful analysis of weak patents can sometimes allow you to ‘design around’ them. This is the skill of the attorney. There is a balance in drafting a patent: too broad and it is likely to be invalid, too narrow and it exposes companies to the possibility of design arounds.

It is clear from the survey that in general, UK companies do not understand and appreciate the value of protecting the IP assets they own. The results also highlight that many misconceptions and misunderstandings exist, particularly in terms of how IP assets can be efficiently and effectively employed in a commercially valuable way. Patent attorneys should be able to help devise sensible IP strategies for businesses that fit their legal budget and future direction of the business.

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