Turning Your Ideas Into Assets: The Role of Intellectual Property

As points of interest, I have recently begun to tweet out and Instagram various illustrations from patents granted in the US. And while, in many ways, it began as an exercise in nostalgia, it has turned into a lesson on how novel ideas, designs, and innovations turn into business assets.

I have posted on social media the illustrations from patents on some of my favorite toys. It is easy to look at these patent illustrations and harken back to my childhood: Lincoln Logs, US Patent # 1,351,086, the hula hoop US Patent # 3,079,728 or Scrabble US Patent #2,752,158. While these iconic toys were a part of my childhood, they represented a larger piece of the business of selling toys. What these toys all had in common, is that they all started as ideas which their inventors or companies deemed important enough for their businesses to turn them into PATENTS.

Most recently I have tweeted out more current illustrations: the “wrap-around screen” seen in one of Apple’s patents, and a Google patent for a “sticky car hood” that allows for a pedestrian, if hit by a car, to fall onto the sticky hood, which would prevent the hit pedestrian from subsequently being run over by the car. In retrospect Lincoln Logs, and the hula-hoop seems like a cool ideas, but a sticky hood? A wrap around screen? They seem futuristic, and that is exactly what they are: ideas that could become potential products, but more than that, they become business assets. Apple, Google, and most of the big corporations, spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to protect their ideas and their innovations.

The protection of ideas, designs, and innovation takes many forms, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Patents on novel ideas/inventions are called utility patents, as compared to a patent granted for a design, which of course is known as a design patent. Patents are something that our forefathers thought highly enough of to make it a part of our constitution. It states:

“any person who ‘invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent’”

Patents are not granted for the ability to sell or make or distribute an item, but rather to give the right to exclude others from using, selling, or making the patented invention or design.

Not every startup, entrepreneurial venture or business generates vast quantities of intellectual property, and some sectors lend themselves to protecting intellectual property more than others. Regardless of what business you are in and especially when starting one, the first major decision you should make is to determine how to protect your invention, your idea, your innovation, and your product and here’s why:

1) It affords protection from others coming into your area of invention
2) Provides business protection and can increase market share considerably
3) Provides protection from copycats and counterfeits
4) It creates a tangible asset
5) Patent rights can be monetized. This is especially important when the
Entrepreneur needs to raise capital
6) Patents are published in the public domain, and the ideas that originally come from these innovations can spur on new ideas and innovation

In the US Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center, GIPC’s newest report entitled: Employing Innovation Across America, they found that found that in “IP-intensive industries, workers make, on average, higher wages than their private sector counterparts. Additionally, IP drives each state’s manufacturing exports, leads to increased R&D investment, and stimulates and protects innovation”.

The GIPC states that intellectual property makes families safer by not allowing unsafe copycat everyday household goods from entering our homes. So IP is good not only for our own business, but for business in general.

Indeed the GIPC’s motto of: Jobs, Innovation, Safety, and Access makes IP one of the most important issues that should be considered in any business as a way of creating, protecting, and monetizing an asset, while at the same time, creating, encouraging, and being part of innovation.

Whether you are in a mature business, or a fledgling startup, do not forget about IP. IP builds value, creates protection and gives back over and over again. PS: www.USPTO.gov , you will find your favorite toy there I am sure!


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