Some people have a visceral reaction to the word audit. They think the tax people are coming and will soon be pounding on the door. An IP audit is different; it is a voluntary process used to figure out what intellectual assets you have as a company — and create processes to determine whether those intellectual assets are patentable, or if they are protected trade secrets.
If you’re trying to strengthen your IP position, you should expand your thinking beyond IP to also include your intellectual assets. A well-written IP Audit and Structured Innovation Program, by the attorney of your choice, will ensure that:
- trade secrets are well protected by an appropriate legal regime;
- gaps in innovation based on existing and future business plans will be identified; and
- other intangibles of value are protected.
A mixture of both patents and trade secrets is desirable, patents are often a very useful proxy for value in complicated transactions — but we all know if you peel back the onion that the true value is well beyond the patent.
Trade secrets are not just a function of the R&D department or the legal department. They are a function of HR, a function of employment agreements. They’re a function of OEM agreements and consulting agreements because you have to share trade secrets in order to have normal business operations in today’s multi-state, multi-party manufacturing processes. And every country has its own local twist.
If you don’t have a sense of what intellectual assets you have, what your assets are as a company, where the innovation is happening, and how it’s happening — it’s going to be difficult to craft a holistic and well-thought-out program to monetize your intellectual assets.