Yorkshire SMEs could be sitting on tens of thousands of pounds in Intellectual Property (IP) assets.
Deborah Niven, an IP specialist at hlw Keeble Hawson, one of Yorkshire’s largest law firms, is urging businesses to take advantage of government funding to audit their intellectual property.
Through the government’s Business Growth Service, the IP Audit Plus programme provides funding of up to £3,000 – including VAT – for an IP professional to assess the value of a business’s IP collateral.
The audits, which are suitable for all sectors, enable established companies to take a step back and assess where the value lies in their business.
Deborah said: “Often at the start of a business, only minimal consideration is given to intellectual property and contracts in order to begin trading, but over time the firm builds up a brand, develops products or services and expands along the way.
“Managing IP assets effectively can be part of a business growth strategy, whether linked to the development and commercialisation of a particular product or service, or as a critical factor in valuing a business for a future sale, management buy-out or for an injection of funds from private equity investors.”
A report from the Intellectual Property Office on the IP Audit Plus found that the audits had highlighted new business opportunities in 31 per cent of participating businesses, with 43 per cent – more than four in ten companies – identifying new opportunities to exploit their IP through initiatives such as licensing and franchising – and 28 per cent reaping financial benefits as a direct result of their audit.
In a further business boost, the report demonstrated that IP reviews had opened up new financial support streams such as equity funding (23 per cent) and grant funding (30 per cent).
Deborah added: “Businesses may not consider IP to be high on their agenda. The most valuable IP asset might be a new product that is being developed, but the company doesn’t see it as either inventive or protectable when actually it is.
“An improvement to an existing product or service, or a new way of doing something, can often be protected – leading to licensing opportunities, additional income streams, or even a monopoly in the market place if they gain patent protection.”
As well as looking at patents, trade marks, designs and copyrights, IP audits can help identify royalty streams and look for loopholes that enable copycats to undermine a business.
To qualify for funding for IP Audit Plus businesses must be registered on the Growth Accelerator Programme, part of the government’s Business Growth Service.