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A Good Intellectual Property Strategy Is a High-Impact Value Strategy*

As any company with valuable patents, designs, trademarks, brandnames, and know-how knows, intellectual property can be a daunting matter. The costs are high and the stakes are even higher: Any lack of coverage in a given country can lead to devastating loss of a great new product or idea in a market where you aren’t covered. The following are basic considerations:

1. Where are the key markets to cover?

1.While it would be desirable to gain global IP coverage for a patent or trademark, costs are prohibitive. Thus it is best to concentrate on those markets where your company plans to compete, sell, and market in the near to medium term.

2. What are the key manufacturing centers to cover? 

It is well known that China is the global manufacturer of many products and technologies, followed by Korea, India, and others. It is important to understand where your product might be “knocked off” or somehow reverse-engineered by unscrupulous manufacturers. You can seek coverage there. In recent years, China has attempted to shore up its compliance with global IP norms, and there is enforcement there of Chinese patents and trademarks.

3. What are the advantages of less robust IP strategies such as design patents and copyrights? 

3.While copyrights and design patents are in many ways weaker than their stronger cousins the trademark and the patent, it is sometimes worth considering them in particular contexts. For example, in the case of music and motion pictures, copyrights have pride of place, and for unique designs, the design patent can in some cases be useful.

4. How to determine state of the art – is your patent new and inventive enough?

4.It is important to perform a thorough analysis of the state of the art in a given area in order to determine whether an invention or technology is truly patentable and whether that patent will be strong enough and easily enough defended. For this purpose, a thorough state of the art of existing patents is advisable, and often across jurisdictions, such as in the US, EU, and China.

5. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) as a placeholder?

One useful way to put off a definitive decision about where to seek patent protection for a couple of years is to register your patent under the PCT, of which most significant countries for business are members. In that way, you can decide later in which countries you wish to seek patent protection.

* Information contained on this page is not meant to constitute or substitute for specific legal advice addressing actual legal situations as is meant as general guidelines only. Readers are advised to seek competent legal counsel appropriate and tailored to their particular legal situation.

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