Intellectual Property (IP): The Forgotten Asset

For the last few weeks like many of you, I have been busy adjusting to the new school year, and I will admit it is taking some time.  While balancing the home front, I have also been busy with the office and making sure all of my business owners, and organizations are growing and expanding their companies, foundations and charities.

What I am finding is that even after we have packaged up their loan requests, which is a process normally taking up to twenty hours of work on my part, coupled with the endless time owners, operators or managers put in daily, is that many of the businesses are undervaluing their businesses, or organizations.  How you may ask?

When companies engage in commerce with the expectation of growing their brand, expanding their organizations, and increasing revenue, they may want to consider protecting all aspects and tools used relating to this growth.  Many organizations create logos, brochures, and stationary for their initial launch, and then may expand by including products, services, books, etc.

These tools or what’s commonly referred to in the industry as Intellectual property (IP) are often referenced as assets when bankers view them on the organization’s balance sheet.  Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, and include copyrights, trademarks, patents, and servicemarks.  For your organization, the first step is to sit down with your board, trustees, and advisors to determine if you actually need these protections, and if so which kind.

For clarity copyrights are a form of protection provided to the authors of original works of authorship, such as music, journals, newspapers, software or books.  Trademarks and servicemarks are words, names, or symbols used to distinguish your goods from others. Lastly, organizations with the patience, have the opportunity to obtain patents. Patents are generally awarded to inventors with a term of 20 years.

Just in case your team has decided that you need IP protection, here a some quick tips and helpful resources:

Tips

  • It is expensive to obtain and maintain a patent. It can cost up to $1500 just to file a patent application, and that is with no legal assistance.
  • Legal assistance from an IP lawyer can provide invaluable assistance and experience with the filing process.

Resources

U.S. Copyright Office (http://www.uspto.gov/) – Their website provides separate databases that allow for free searching of a) existing and pending patents and b) active and inactive U.S. trademarks.

Google Patents (www.google.com/patents) – This tool also allows for free patent searching, and results can be limited by date, status and type.  Search results offer a better view of a patent’s accompanying drawings.  Also, results include current applications for patents as well.

Electronic Frontier (http://www.eff.org/issues/intellectual-property) – Information on copyright and IP law. Site includes case law summaries, white papers, and news articles.

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