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T

he realm of intellectual property is constellated of a

variety of associated rights whose business potential is

still vaguely known, and is thus waiting to get fully

unleashed. A correct and useful knowledge of intellectual property

rights (IPR) is in fact not widespread throughout society and

keeps remaining a matter mostly limited to relatively few

professionals, either employed in dedicated IPR departments of

larger R&D companies or in IPR consultancy firms.

Patents are often interpreted according to a common general

knowledge which has been built up on numerous misconceptions

with regard to their usefulness and cost effectiveness. Filing a

patent application, for instance, is considered, wrongly or rightly, a

sign of overt geniality, the only means to protect a private

inventor’s idea against malicious buyers and partners, an

extremely high expenditure with no practical use, and a major

obstacle to development and trading.

The reality, however, is that the palette of IPRs and its

complementary legal tools (e.g. agreements related to non-

disclosure, consortium creation, R&D consultancy, transfer,

licence, etc.) is a powerful instrument to boost an upcoming

business (e.g. a start-up, a spin-off or a joint venture) and

strengthen an established business (e.g. an SME), not to create

one. Indeed, besides an idea (not necessarily entailing a

breakthrough as many researchers wrongly assume), the creation

of a new business involves, amongst other factors, a market, a

viable business model, a team of highly committed persons

having interdisciplinary backgrounds, trustable partners, and

investors. At each stage of a business, from its creation to its

maintenance and, in some cases, to its exit, its intellectual

property must be adequately protected for preventing harmful

consequences while concurrently increasing the probability of its

success, growth and survival.

An example of the process

Let us take the example of an upcoming start-up. Shortly after

the idea is conceived, once the necessary personal reflections

and initial business considerations have been carried out, the

team should write down a business plan. As a first aspect, the

latter must embrace a realistic assessment of existing

competitors. In this context, it is common, deliberately or not, to

underestimate the importance of conducting an IP search along

with a market search.

Typically, the result of an IP search would offer many powerful

business-related indications in respect to, amongst others:

deriving the actual interest and the geographical interest in a

technology or a design by respectively looking at the evolution of

filings during the years and the number of filings per

country/region; avoiding re-inventing and re-developing existing

products and services; designing alternative solutions or

improvements with respect to the state-of-the-art; discovering

further competitors along with their market span; and finding

business partners. In particular, besides an assessment of the

likelihood of protecting a technology or a design with an IPR,

entrepreneurs often ignore the fact that the competitors found in

the IP search may own a portfolio of active (even dormant) rights

that could represent a serious hindrance to their future business.

As a second aspect, IPRs shall be taken into account in the

budget section of the business plan, since they represent both an

expense and a source of income. As a consequence, preliminary

strategic and economic considerations concerning trademarks,

designs and patents shall be performed.

Normally, people consider IPRs primarily as the ‘shield’ of a

business, i.e. a protection from competitors inventing or copying

the same idea, while overlooking that they can also be turned into

the ‘sword’ of the business thanks to their direct and indirect

economic benefits. The former benefits refer to the extra profits

resulting from: (i) a stronger market power (i.e. the possibility to

Making intellectual property rights the ‘shield’ and the ‘sword’ of your business

IP:All-round business asset

18

I S S U E S E V E N

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

www.horizon2020projects.com

P R O F I L E

E X C E L L E N T S C I E N C E

Simone Frattasi (left) and Leif L Nielsen (right)