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Effective Control of IP

 

Atamo is the outsourced Research and Development Department for many of our clients. 
The founders had previously worked as the in house team for a number of companies, and are 
very conscious of the issues around developing and maintaining an Intellectual Property (IP) 
portfolio. We recognise that the largest part of a business’ IP portfolio is “informal”. 
Patents, Trademarks, Copyright and Registered Designs are all very well, but the majority of 
the commercial value of IP for most businesses is in “know how”.
 
It’s also true that “Property” has to be transferrable to be valuable. Things that can’t be 
transferred can’t be sold, so have no commercial value. Most businesses transfer intellectual 
property in the form of the products and services they sell. Those products and services 
represent a packaging of the IP to make it saleable, but that is not the only way to package IP.
 
Packaging IP is particularly important if you plan to sell your business, to transfer 
manufacturing from one contractor to another, to engage a new product development team, to 
license your technology and for many other commercial reasons.
 
So, how do you package know-how, without cloning people? There is no substitute for good 
people, but there are things you can do to package your IP and gain effective control of it. 
The core is to have control of all elements of your designs. A number of clients have come to 
us to resolve design problems only to discover that they do not have all the design 
information they thought they owned. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t have the right legal 
agreement with contractors, but more often it’s because they didn’t understand what they 
needed to own.
 
Fortunately, there are well understood systems in the technology industry that can underpin 
effective control of your designs to allow them to be transferred as your business requires. 
You will need to ensure your outsourced team has systems in place to control the versions of 
all design documents and files (hardware, software, enclosures, bills of materials, test 
designs, test results, development tools, and assembly instructions). Your designs will need 
to be done with popular and well supported tools (CAD, compilers, databases etc.). Designs 
done on proprietary systems can’t be readily transferred or modified by others.
 
The safest way to ensure you have effective control of your IP is to separate design from 
production, and ensure you establish a sound legal right to ownership of the all the design 
information.
 
We aren’t lawyers or patent attorneys, so we can’t advise you on those areas, but we can help 
you understand what you will need to control to effectively own your IP. Give us a call if 
you think you need to better understand this issue.