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 Intellectual Property In The Digital Economy

Intellectual Property In The Digital Economy

July 4, 2016

As an IP lawyer, I am well aware of how little intellectual property is understood in entrepreneurship circles. Even MBA courses barely address the topic. Yet the digital economy has many implications on the relevance of Intellectual Property (IP) for business.

I did some quick research a while back and found that out of twenty top start-up business books released between 2006 and 2013 only eight even mentioned IP. It was a similar story when I looked at MBA courses. The one run at London Business School is ranked number four in the world according to the Financial Times. Yet it does not mention IP in its core modules.

In the UK alone there are more than half a million new companies registered every year. Yet many of these start-ups are completely unaware of what IP even means, some of which probably go under or achieve less success as a result.

Society hasn’t caught up with the dramatically changed role of IP law in the digital age.

A simple search on the web will instantly reveal whether a name or image you are using belongs to someone else. While in the industrial age you might have got away with infringing on other people’s IP because nobody was likely to find out about you, now that everything is out in the open, it is no longer possible to ignore copyright and trade mark issues, even if you are a small start-up.

However, it is not just because you could be infringing on somebody else’s rights that you need to take account of IP. In the overcrowded world of business, it is important to stand out with distinctive names, and to understand how to position yourself for commercial success.

You want to be able to scale your business through licensing or other commercialisation activities. These all depend on having secure IP rights, and understanding IP is essential to knowing how to protect your business against inevitable copying by competitors if you are successful.

So, avoiding infringing on others’ rights, and using IP rights to protect your unique business proposition are crucially relevant to any ambitious business both before it starts outs, and on an ongoing basis as the business progresses.

Regarding the IP help, it’s not enough to simply register rights. You also need appropriate agreements and advice so you are able to successfully commission the technology on which your business relies, and manage your risks. That involves focusing on the relationships you have in place with outsourcers, clients, partners and more.

For physical products, the internet is an important distribution channel, so SMEs need help to identify and protect their IP, and to understand the online space.

At Azrights we have developed solutions to help early stage businesses as well as more established ones to understand their IP needs.

It is important to me to raise awareness of IP so that the many businesses out there that have yet to receive help with their intellectual property can do so.