Intellectual Property

Intellectual PropertyDo you have any intellectual property? And, if you do how much is it worth?  Most of us have ideas or at least thoughts about how we might do something either differently from how it’s done today or how we might do something totally new.  When you go through a formal process of describing what it is you have in mind, how to do what you are thinking, and write it all down, that final form of your idea can be considered intellectual property.  The idea behind intellectual property – especially as it relates to patent laws and processes – is to capture your ideas in a more formal property sense.  Patents are then designed to protect your rights to that intellectual property.

Comparable Intellectual Property Valuations

Another way to think about intellectual property is in relation to real or physical property. If you own a house or piece of land, you are a property owner. That ownership comes with certain rights and privileges according to current property law. You are free to lease, modify, sell, or otherwise use your own property as you see fit, and no one can take those rights away without due legal process.  The same applies to your intellectual property. You own it and have the right to lease, sell, modify or use it as you want. Once intellectual property is protected by patent, you also have the right to exclude others from making or creating something the same as or similar to what you have generated.

Type of Intellectual Property

Is your intellectual property creative or related to an invention? In other words, what type of intellectual property do you own?  One of the current distinctions in intellectual property law, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is between industrial property and copyrights. Industrial intellectual property most often pertains to “inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source” while copyrights apply to “literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs”.  For the most part, patents and patent law along with the implied protection of intellectual property rights that go with patents applies to industrial property. It’s difficult to imagine a patent being awarded for music, plays, films, or artistic works.  These creative and artistic properties are typically unique and individualistic. However, equipment, tools, and other things used by artists and musicians have received patents – for example, the Stratocaster electric guitar from Fender received a patent award in 1960.

What can you do with your intellectual property? Just like most other forms of property, you can rent it, sell it, keep it, or use it just about any way you like. Most intellectual property can be thought of as an asset, like most other forms of property.  Putting a value on that asset can sometimes be a challenge, but finance professionals can be engaged to help assess the true market value or worth of your intellectual property. Once you have the intellectual property documented and protected (or patented), you can begin to use it like any other asset. Banks will sometimes lend money based on the value of intellectual property.  Investors will often use intellectual property to evaluate alternative investments or stock purchases.  And, assuming you created the intellectual property in the first place because you had a good idea about how to do something, you can use it as a basis for new products, new companies, or new innovations.

Follow Proper Steps to Avoid Theft, Intrusion, and Misuse

Your ideas and creative thinking are the beginning of your intellectual property. Documenting and describing your ideas, how they work, and what you want to do, all need to be done to capture the idea in a usable form.  Building the intellectual property should be a formal and detailed process just like you would use if you were building a house. You wouldn’t use a poor foundation, cheap materials or leave the roof off of your house if you wanted to have value in the property you are building. The same applies to intellectual property – build it to the best of your ability and use the best materials or inputs you can find.  Once you are finished with the building and have your intellectual property defined, protection and valuations can be addressed. Valuations and the worth of your intellectual property can be properly assessed and estimated, just as if you had an inspector look at a house you built.  And, patents and the patent aware process are there to help protect your rights to the property you have created – protecting you from theft, intrusion and misuse.

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