Sussex Businesses could be missing out on thousands of pounds
While the Chancellor raps the knuckles of British banks for not lending to small businesses, Southern law firm Thomas Eggar warns that businesses might be missing out on the opportunity to add thousands of pounds to their balance sheets. Businesses are failing to realise the genuine value they have in intangible assets such as copyright, patents, designs and trade marks, otherwise known as intellectual property (IP), which could make them a more appealing prospect to their bank. Thomas Eggar has seen cases where thousands of pounds were added to the value of their clients’ businesses simply by identifying and, where appropriate, registering their IP. Without realising it, the success of small businesses could rest with their IP, which goes beyond new products or inventions. IP is tied up in many more intangible assets such as the reputation of the company and its services, which can all be protected legally and add value to the bottom line. The importance of these ‘intangibles’ is highlighted in the Brand Finance Global 500 which surveys the world’s most valuable brands; in 2008, Tesco’s brand value was estimated at $20.5billion. “Of course we aren’t suggesting that small and medium-sized businesses in Sussex have the brand value equivalent to large companies such as Tesco. However, this does illustrate how important it is for businesses to get their houses in order during a recession to discover the true added-value of the business, which should make them look a more attractive prospect to their bank,” said Joshy Thomas, associate and IP specialist at Thomas Eggar. Thomas Eggar is advising that local businesses undertake systematic research to collate all the IP that sits within the business and where possible to register it. This often adds value to the company balance sheet. Thomas continues: “As a small business grows, there isn’t time for logging IP assets. Businesses also tend to grow organically; it means there isn’t usually one person responsible for this. That means that when a business reaches a certain size there is no single repository of this valuable information, so we are urging businesses to think about organising and registering their IP now. It will pay significant dividends when it comes to increasing the value of the business - making it easier to get vital loans from the bank. Daniel Byrne, IP lawyer and member of Thomas Eggar’s IP/IT practice adds: “It really is a case of businesses ‘not knowing what they have ’. But, by running a systematic audit and ensuring everything is logged, a company can turn the table on their bank by proactively adding value and looking like a serious prospect.” Thomas Eggar suggests that companies that wish to discover the value of their IP undertake a 4 point plan: 1. Identify inventions, products and brands of the business 2. Register relevant products or services as trade marks 3. Register the company name 4. Appoint a person in your organisation to log on a computer system all copyright works, including the date they originated. Thomas Eggar’s IP/IT practice is headed up by Richard Hastings, partner. It advises on the full range of intellectual property, trade mark, design, copyright and patent right issues. -Ends Word Count: 525 Notes to editors: What is Intellectual Property (IP)? (source: Intellectual Property Office) IP is any form of original creation that can be bought or sold - from music to machinery. The four main types of IP rights are patents, trade marks, designs and copyright but there are many ways to protect your IP. At the outset, most companies are aware of the choice of their company name and, if they have created a new product, then will be aware of the need to protect it with a patent. Many, however, are unaware of the ability to protect their work, or the power of trade marks or the danger of infringing other peoples' intellectual property rights. The four main types of IP are: • Copyright - protects material, such as literature, art, music, sound recordings, films and broadcasts • Designs - protect the visual appearance or eye appeal of products. • Patents - protect the creative step of an invention relating to products and processes. • Trade Marks - protect signs that can distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another.