Identifying Key IP Assets In Your Business

Businesses, in particular small and medium size businesses are often surprised when they find out how much IP they own or use without realising it. IP includes more than just technology-related inventions, such as new products or processes, technical know-how or expertise.

It also includes trademarks, designs, works of authorship and artistic expression that can differentiate a business from its competitors and that symbolize its reputation and goodwill. Many businesses realize too late the importance that IP could have played in their development and often; their lack of anticipation of their protection needs is more to blame than the loopholes in a local IP protection system.

This is particularly noticeable for local businesses in developing countries where awareness about IP protection remains low. Identifying IP assets is the first step to IP protection and can be more difficult than it seems in particular due to the intangible nature of intellectual property. There are four principal types of intellectual property: 1) Patents, which protect new and non-obvious inventions, principally new products or new processes

2) Trademarks, which are used to identify and distinguish the product or services of one company from those of its competitors

3) Copyrights, which cover creative works of expression, such as literary, software, photography, music, artwork and architectural works

4) Trade secrets, which are never registered, as registration would reveal the secret, thereby destroying it.

  1. Conduct a Review of IP Assets (IP Creation):
    One of the most important steps in developing a plan for IP Asset management will be reviewing existing IP Assets. The technique to reviewing IP Assets will vary considerably depending on the size and nature of companies.as well as the role that intangible assets play in the business of the company. The list of IP Assets may be incredibly varied depending on the nature of the business, but could include patents and/or patentable subject matter, copyrights, trademarks, registered designs, trade secrets, layout design of integrated circuit, inventions and patents
  2. Determine the scope of the company’s rights to the IP. (IP Ownership)

This can range from outright ownership to a license in the IP Assets.

  1. Having identified the IP Assets, it is important how these assets add value to the organization’s short and long-term business goals and the intended or possible uses of the IP Asset. Companies should monitor potential infringements by others and enforce their intellectual property rights. (IP Exploitation)
  2. In order to maximize the potential value of any IP Asset a company will need to develop a system to reduce the risk of unintentional disclosure of trade secrets and other proprietary information.(IP Protection)

 

Remember: In order to exploit and IP that exists within your business, you need to make sure you first create it, then protect it so you can own it. If you do not own your IP, you cannot exploit it!

 

For more information on Exploiting IP and making IP work for you, contact Hsien@astreem.com

Brand leadership

What Is Leadership?

At first glance, this question seems easy enough to answer. However, a little bit of reflection will immediately show that the Word Leadership is a rather complex word that means different things to different people in different social circles and cultures. Each of us believe we have a good idea about what it means to be a good leader, but when it comes to defining the concept, the picture is not so clear. For some, leadership is motivation, for others, it equals results, for others it is inspiration.

A general definition of leadership may be described as having some of these common traits:
1.. Having Vision. Leaders with a vision and have the ability to share it with others, inspire others to share a common goal and  direct the efforts and dedication of the entire team.

  1. Ability to Motivation

Leadership encourages the team to strive towards a common vision. Through motivation, the leader channels the energy and professional potential of their team to achieve the group objectives.

  1. Understand to lead is to Serve

A strong leader supports the team. Group members must have and feel the support of their leader, the tools needed to do their jobs properly must be available to them, they must have recognition for their efforts and know that there is a person paying attention in order to correct bad habits.

  1. Is Creative and encourages Creativity

Good leaders are able to create an environment that will encourage all the members of their team to develop their skills and imagination, so that they can contribute to the common project and vision of the company. Encouraging creativity and ideas of others help leaders encourage innovation.

  1. Strong at Managing the team.

The leader must be at the forefront to lead and guide their team throughout the whole process until the goal is reached. It is important for leaders to lead and allow the team to lead. Know when to hold tight and let go will allow the team to get the chance to develop, both personally and professionally. Pure management focuses on the tasks, real leadership focuses on the people.

  1. Emphasise Excellence rather than perfection.

A leader understands that the pursuit of excellence is far more sustainable than the pursuit of perfection. Perfectionists strive for impossible goals. Pursuers of excellence enjoy meeting high standards that are within reach.

Perfectionists value themselves by what they do. Pursuers of excellence value themselves by who they are. Perfectionists can be devastated by failure; pursuers of excellence learn from it

  1. Taking risks

The leader is the one responsible for taking the risks that others are not willing to take. They are confident enough to make a decision, and if they make a mistake, the leader must have the courage to admit mistakes and take the right path, without blaming it on the team. Good leaders know how to get ahead of their time, they see opportunities where others can’t.

  1. Balancing the interests of various stakeholders in the organisation.

Coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders within the organisation.

  1. Being a true leader has nothing to do with rank

The definition of leadership has nothing to do with the hierarchy or position of anyone in the company. It is about the commitment to achieving a goal and whose conviction they manage to transmit to others through enthusiasm and optimism to reach a common goal as a team.

 

Another more complex definition describes Leadership as a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

Key differences:

  • Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power
  • Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports”
  • No mention of personality traits, attributes, or even a title; there are many styles, many paths, to effective leadership
  • It includes a goal, not influence with no intended outcome

 

Lastly, what makes this definition so different from many of the academic definitions out there is the inclusion of “maximizes the efforts”.

Although this curated article merely skims the various definitions of what leadership means, it is a good start towards uncovering the complex layers of that make up the definition of leadership.

Role of a Franchise agreements and your growth strategy

By Wun Wenna

1 PLOT

Know what, or which parts of your business you wish to franchise.
Is it the product or what’s in it?
Is it the entire system or certain parts of the know-how? Are you franchising part of your business or all of your business? What are its selling points? What makes it different? Why would this be attractive to the franchisee? Will you be concurrently developing your product or a part of it, say its brand name? The answers to these questions (and more, this is not an exhaustive list) will help sharpen your focus on which aspects are fundamental to you, and those are likely to require protection. Either by law or by contract or both. For example, the intellectual property associated with your product and business (usually the trademark and trade names) you would want to retain, in order to protect against third parties’ and franchisee’s unauthorised use. Do assets need to be transferred for the successful running of business operations? How about training and marketing, how important are these? How will you transfer the skills required to run the franchise business? How much marketing is required? Can these be reduced to a standard operating manual, or are there parts which should not be shared? Establish what’s important to you, as franchisor. Deal with these issues in the Franchise Agreement. Make clear your stand. If the franchisee is not agreeable to the terms, better to know early than start a relationship and have to unravel further down the line.

 

02 TAKE A PAUSE

Know why you are franchising. Are you building, sharing or giving? Determine the nature of relationship with franchisees. What role does the franchisee play in your plan? Who needs who? To maintain a successful long term relationship, you will need to strike a balance. How much control? Who puts in the resources? Work out the numbers. Make this clear. Set pre-determined parameters, performance targets. Be realistic. When it’s time to part, part amicably. Consider post termination provision such as non-compete provisions. Know your options in each scenario, and make plans accordingly. Set the expectations right. Write all these in the agreement.

 

03 GOING PLACES
Staying local for now? There are no specific laws regulating the ongoing relationship between franchisee and franchisor. Depending on how you structure the relationship with the franchisee, certain legislation may regulate various aspects of franchising, such as the Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) Act, Competition Act, Income Tax Act and Unfair Contract Terms Act. Crossing borders, you will need to think about the legal barriers
in each local market such as competition law, restraint of trade, foreign trade and investment regulations (e.g. China and Vietnam), double taxation laws and relief, specific franchisor/ franchisee regulations (e.g. US, Australia) and laws.

04 PLAN AHEAD

Get your structure right from the start. Plan, research and do your homework. Work out your sums. Know your product, and what you need to protect.

Write these in the Franchise Agreement. Start your Franchise Story. Right it.

Brand IT Right!

By Hsien Naidu

Having a good branding increases the value of a company, provides employees with direction and motivation, and makes acquiring new customers easier.

A brand represents the sum of people’s perception of a company’s product, promise, customer service, reputation, marketing, and logo. When all of these parts of the business are working well, the it forms the brand’s overall Brand DNA.

What are some of the benefits of investing time, energy and financial resources behind getting your Brand right?

  1. Branding Tells People Who you are and what you stand for – People like doing business with companies they identify with. A strong brand lets the customer know what they can expect from a company’s product or service. A good brand connects with people at an emotional level, they feel good when they buy the brand. Purchasing is an emotional experience and having a strong brand helps people feel good at an emotional level when they engage with the company
  2. Branding improves Recognition and helps a company differentiate itself from the crowd – A well designed logo or brand mark represents the “face” of a company, logo design is critical because that simple graphic will be on every piece of correspondence and advertising. A professional logo design is simple enough to be memorable, but powerful enough to give the desired impression of your company.
  3. Branding Builds Trust and Confidence – A professional and easily distinguished appearance builds credibility and trust. People are more likely to purchase from a business that they can connect with.
  4. Branding Builds Financial Value – A strong brand can be worth more than the sum of its physical assets. Companies who publicly trade on a stock exchange are valued at many times the actual hard assets of the company. Much of this value is due to the branding of the company. A strong brand usually guarantees future business.
  5. Branding builds a strong sense of identity – a brand with a strong sense of purpose and a clear message inspires both customers and employees alike. Many employees need more than just work— they need something to work toward and need to know the WHY they do what they do. When employees understand your mission and reason for being, they are more likely to feel that same pride and work in the same direction to achieve the goals you have set.  

The best branding is built on a strong idea… an idea that you and your team can believe in and can commit to, and work to deliver the brand promise consistently.

 

 

Developing Your IP Strategy

Assuming your IP assets have been identified, the next step is to prioritize the importance of each asset.

Assets that generate or are likely to generate the most revenue or draw the most exposure should be given the highest priority.

Possible Strategies to employ:

  1. A defensive strategy, where the purpose of the IP owner is primarily to obtain exclusive rights and enforce these rights in case of infringement;
  2. An offensive strategy, where the purpose of the IP owner is primarily to gain a significant competitive advantage over identified competitors. For example, the IP owner will attempt to build an IP protection that will restrict the freedom to operate of its competitors;
  3. Commercialisation of IP assets, where the purpose of the IP owner is primarily to sell, license or franchise its IP assets. In order to effectively exploit IP the exists within a business, a sound IP strategy must be developed to support the business goals and objectives of the company and provide ongoing returns on investments.

Once the strategy has been identified, take the steps to implement and protect the IP within the company.

Finally, remember that IP protection is geographical in nature and there is a need to scan the countries the business intends to be in.

Some things you should check for are:

  1. Ensure you own the IP in the market
  2. Check if you are free to use your IP or if the IP belongs to another party.
  3. Where appropriate, invest in prior art searches or freedom to operate studies (for technical inventions), trademark availability searches (to check whether a name is available), legal audits or due diligence in order to ensure that the IP created by your company is duly assigned to your company;
  4. Whether adequate steps have been taken to protect your IP and confidential information in relation to your employees, contractors, clients and competitors;

There are specialised IP Lawyers that can advise in these areas.

Check on Accel8’s platform to seek out a lawyer specialising in this area of Ip Management.

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS OF FRANCHISE AGREEMENTS

By Lee Shy Tsong

Senior Partner

Donaldson and Burkinshaw

 

There are many reasons that motivate a franchisor and franchisee to formalize their agreement with a Franchise contract. Benefits of a Franchise agreement are listed below.

  • Allows greater flexibility since parties are free to negotiate terms of the FA and determine scope of agreement
  • May attach ancillary documents, refer to the applicable legislation, provide for alternative dispute resolution through arbitration and mediation clause
  • Allows parties to frame relationship between franchisor, sub-franchisors and franchisees
  • Parties are at liberty to craft the contractual relationship as desired. E.g. Franchisor may choose to deal only with sub-franchisor and transfer certain risks associated with managing the franchisee to the sub-franchisor
  • Allows parties to make provisions for all contemplated circumstances
  • Provide for termination, or restrict/ impose conditions on transfer of interests or rights under the FA
  • No restriction on financial returns to be agreed from the franchising scheme
  • Allows parties to negotiate for the proportioned amount
  • Supplemental terms may be added through addenda, supplemental agreements and side letters
  • Protection of the know-how
  • Can include non-competition clauses or covenants not to compete. May not be entirely effective because of the general public interest for competition. Therefore these clauses will be limited in their scope and duration.

A. What is Business Process Automation

What is Business Process Automation?

Hsien Naidu

Business process automation is the process where businesses use Information Technology to contain costs on their business operations. It consists of integrating applications, restructuring labor resources, and using software applications throughout the organization. Wikipedia

 

Business process automation (BPA) is an organizational transformation that aims to drive efficiency, provide transparency and facilitate compliance for repeatable processes. Organizations use automation in many forms—from simple employee onboarding to complex accounting and HR  work processes or approvals, management of warehouse inventory and logistics management, as well as management reporting and audits. With access to a myriad of  automation software, almost any6 key driver within the business value chain can be automated to achieve various business goals.

 

BPA is not just about automation of common business processes – it enables the organization to simplify its core operational movements as well as improve the effectiveness of the entire value chain of the business. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, companies must utilize BPA to minimize operational costs, maximize productivity, improve client relations, and enhance their ROI.

 

 

Importance of Business Process Automation

  1. Fast and Better Decision Making and Strategy Support

Being able to get Just in time information allows for better supply chain management, leadining to an improved ability to respond to changes rather than react to it.

A good Business Automation Strategy enable an enterprise to react more quickly to their environments and demands, enabling them to push out ahead of the competition and produce a better service and cover a larger piece of the market. This will help the business owners focus on managing your business and concentrate on dominating the market places.

  1. Speeds up process completion

Manually, there is a limit to how fast business processes can be completed. Automation software can reduce this time significantly since it allows tasks to be completed simultaneously and can automatically progress tasks through a pre-defined workflow. In addition it can prompt users to any actions required in advance of deadlines.

Unnecessary tasks can increase the overall time that it takes to complete business processes. Business Process Automation uses modelling to get rid of these tasks and optimise the flow of information. This allows companies to realign their priorities and streamline their day to day operations, decreasing the overall time that it takes to complete vital business processes.

  1. 3. Lessen the Cost of Business Operations
  • Business Automation helps decrease the manpower cost and also eliminates process redundancy. This can help lessen operational cost by improving response time of the business.
  1. Improves tracking, monitoring and reporting

Businesses often have to make decisions based on best ‘guestimates’ that are devised from a mixture of experience, common sense and gut feel. The problem with this type of manual process and decision flow is that it is unable to automatically calculate accurate and up-to-date data. Therefore, the business is not being presented with the most accurate information of which to base their decisions, tactics or strategy.

For this reason, one area that is increasingly attracting investment is Business Intelligence Software. This is able to make smart decisions based on data generated from gathered information. Process automation routinely collects and processes data. This data is then available to businesses for monitoring and analysis, giving companies the ability to make more informed decisions. Business Process Automation enhances the manner and speed in which management can report on regular activity as records are automatically collected and interpreted.

  1. Eradicates the risk of human error

It’s inevitable that people will at some point make mistakes when working manually, particularly when workload is extremely pressured. A key benefit of Business Process Automation is that it helps reduce human error by making checks and performing high-quality tasks regularly behind the scenes.

There is no place for human error within individual stages of work because each stage is automated. It gives computer aided data to check for logical errors, which can significantly improve levels of accuracy within the workplace. This ultimately means less time is spent having to rectify issues or settle customer complaints which also often have a financial impact on a business.

  1. Decreases workload

Using technology to streamline process means manual workload of employees can be decreased and allow them to best utilise their skills and focus on their core competencies. Business Process Automation software allows information to be gathered quickly from different sources and systems, which can be easily collaborated to automatically generate reports and process new instructions.

From spell checking to complex calculations, payroll automation to cloud based accounting  systems and inventory application software, these applications can help employees to get the work done.Business Process Automation can free employees to undertake different responsibilities and work more efficiently within the business.

  1. Makes compliance easier

Business Process Automation can help Businesses conduct and monitor audits more effectively. The proper use of it helps ensure compliance with ever evolving and increasing legal standards and SOPS.

Business Process Automation software can alleviate the concerns a business might have with regards to non compliance, since the automated process enables that all rules are enforced through alerts, reminders and fail safes.. It can also provide a traceable record of activity which can support the business in proving their efforts towards compliance

 

 

What is Intellectual Property

The Importance of Intellectual Property

What is Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property is a basket of different rights.  There is no precise definition of “intellectual property” but it can be divided into the areas of trade marks, patents, copyright, database rights, designs and confidential information.

In the knowledge-powered economy of today, a company’s intangible assets, specifically their Intellectual Property (IP), are key determining factors of its worth. Billions are invested every year by companies such as Apple, Samsung, Google and Facebook in protecting, enforcing and managing their IP portfolios.

IP is today a leading asset class and is a key driver of economic growth and enterprise, knowledge of IP has become a necessity rather an option.

When a business is establishing its presence in the marketplace, protecting and managing its intellectual property is critical as it can mean the difference between success or failure. That is why it is important for businesses to understand the different forms of intellectual property because some involve a formal application and examination process before a right can be registered while others come into play without the need for a registration process. Below is a glossary explaining the various rights which businesses may find beneficial.

Confidential information

Confidential information is any information with restrictions placed on the communication or dissemination of that information.

Confidential Information deals with ‘know how’ and is difficult to prove, enforce and recover since the information typically resides with individuals. Unless it is very clearly put in written form, both marked clearly and understood as confidential

Obligations of confidence can arise under contract or under the general law. Duties under the general law may arise from a particular relationship (employer-employee) or where information has been received by a person who was aware, or should have been aware, that the information was confidential. Confidential information can be the most valuable asset of a business. The information can relate to any subject matter and be stored in any form. Examples include a new product design, a marketing strategy and software code.

Copyright

Copyright is the right to prevent copying (and certain other acts) in relation to works that qualify for protection. Copyright can subsist in literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works as well as original databases, sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programmes and typographical arrangements of published editions.

The duration of protection will vary depending on the work. For example, copyright in literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works, a film or an original database expires 70 years after the death of the author while in the case of sound recordings, broadcasts, cable programmes and typographical arrangements, the duration is 50 years.

Database right

The owner of the database right has the right to undertake or authorise others to extract or re-utilise all or a substantial part of the contents of a protected database. A database is protected where there has been a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database. This right is separate to copyright.

The duration of the database right is 15 years from the end of the calendar year in which the making of the database was completed or it was first re-utilised.

Designs

A design can be registered if it is new and has individual character. A design is “new” when nothing like it has been previously made available to the public and has “individual character” if the overall impression it produces on an informed user differs from that produced by a design which has previously been made available to the public.

A design can be registered (in Ireland or Europe) for a period of 5 years and then renewed, for periods of 5 years, to a maximum period of 25 years.

Patent

A patent gives the inventor the exclusive right, for a limited period, to prevent others from using his invention without permission. An invention is patentable if it is (i) novel; (ii) capable of industrial application; and (iii) involves an inventive step.

A full term patent is registered for 20 years. In Ireland, it is also possible to register a short term patent for 10 years. It is not possible though to hold both a full and short term patent for the same invention. Therefore, when both patents are granted, the short term patent will be deemed void.

Trade Mark

A trade mark is a sign that you can use to distinguish your business’ goods or services from those of other traders. Singapore uses the International Classification of Goods and Services, under the Nice Agreement, to classify trade mark registrations.

A trade mark can be represented graphically in the form of your company’s logo or a signature. Through a registered trade mark, you can protect your brand (or “mark”) by restricting other people from using its name or logo.

The period of protection is 10 years but a trade mark can be renewed indefinitely on payment of renewal fees.

Having a reasonable knowledge of intellectual property will help businesses to incorporate these assets into their planning and strategy.

 

Source: IPOS