In my last article on Intellectual Property, I had mentioned about IP Audit, and why it’s important for a startup to carry out regular periodic IP Audits. I had also mentioned that all you startups can as well conduct the IP Audits all by yourself, without the help of any law firm, and thus without the usual drag on your financial resources.
But then, what exactly is an IP Audit? Why is it so essential for you to conduct it periodically? What are the resources you would need to conduct one? Do you have to be an IPR expert to conduct an IP Audit? This article tries to answer all such questions.
What’s an IP Audit?
Well, what do you do when you are searching for something? You simply examine carefully, all such places where the thing you are searching for, could have been possibly there. Well then, what’s an audit got to do with this kind of a search? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines ‘audit’ as ‘a careful check or review of something’. Thus, an IP audit should necessarily mean that you are carefully checking and/or reviewing your organization, in the hope of finding any intellectual property in any of its processes and/or products. Welcome to the world of IP Audit!
An IP Audit is a very structured exercise, time and resource inclusive, but which yields substantially fruitful results. Generally, organizations outsource IP Auditing to law firms to save time, energy and efforts, but then, being startups, most of the procedure can be done in-house, though experts can be consulted only to validate your results. So, how can you go about conducting the IP Audit all by yourself? Here’s how (the points are as mentioned in a research paper published here):
- Form a Team
- Plan the Process
- Assess your organization’s structure, profile and product verticals
- Produce the Results in the Form of a Report
Thus, you see here that the process in itself is pretty simple. But a great amount of care goes into going through the details of each step. Let us examine the steps in detail:
- Form a Team: Now, since you ain’t outsourcing the task, you will need to have an ad hoc team in your organization itself. Without saying, this team will be supervised by you. The next question being, who else will be a part of this team? Well, it’s to be remembered that, no department or no vertical should be left out of the loop, while forming a team. Because, many a time it so happens that, the IP of an organization is spread across departments and/or verticals, hence, you cannot possibly take the chance of leaving things out. Hence, be it the Sales Team, the Marketing Team, the Technical Team, Designers, Managers, you got to have them in your team. It’s to be remembered that, it is YOU who plays the lead role here, because it is you, who along with the help of those mentioned, that synthesizes the data collected and comes up with the IP report. So you have formed your team and are all set to start the process. What Next?
- Plan the process: Planning is the most essential process of the IP Audit. If you have the right plan, half of your job is done, but if you come up with a skewed plan, you would wasting your time and resources. How do you plan? You can start scanning for IP considering on vertical/department at a time. Say, you begin with the technical team, you start with looking into the codes and algorithms created; you move to the design team, and look at the design of your website, the design of your products; the marketing team will have the content it creates, and so on. Thus, once you properly plan the steps and/or stages whereby you will be carrying on the process, you will realize that you have already simplified the seemingly complicated procedure.
- Organizational Assessment: Once you plan, execute it diligently. Since this entire process is internal, you cannot possibly give the excuse of lack of financial resources. You could as well come up with an arrangement whereby you feed all the IP details automatically into your system, as and when they are generated. Thus, for this plan to effectively materialize, you need to ensure that all your teammates are IP educated, at least fundamentally. Otherwise, I repeat, you would not only be wasting your time, but will also be burdening yourself with unwanted work. When I say organizational assessment, I mean to ask you to explore every vertical of yours, for every possibility of finding an IP, in every corner of your work.
- Come up with a Report: Once you thus identify all your IP, and have stuck to your timeline, you gift yourself with a wonderful report which details all the IP you have created thus far, in your organization. No wonder, you will be amazed at the monetary potential your IP may hold at any given point in time. To proceed further with the filing, you have no other option but to consult an IP attorney, but then, you will have to make sure that your report is flawless. Because, anything left out of the Report would only mean you ain’t realizing the full potentials of your startup.
Thus, I think you pretty much got hold of how a preliminary IP audit can be conducted so that you maximize the monetization of your IP!
Feel free to drop in your queries and criticisms as comments below!
Happy Auditing, Happy Startup-ing!
Image from here.