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A good entrepreneur recognizes new business opportunities and customer needs earlier than others and responds to them as quickly and decisively as the situation allows. Companies usually spend a lot of money when they renew the business model. An IP strategy addresses the agonizing uncertainty of unintentionally infringing third-party patents when entering a market on the one hand, and the danger that competitors might copy important work results on the other.

In mature companies, innovation protection has many facets because the entire company organization, processes, employees in production, sales and development, and the supply chain have to be taken along. Ever shorter product development cycles also make it difficult to say exactly when which measures need to be taken.

IP strategy is an attempt to avoid comparison and competition on price and cost. An exclusive and defensible competitive advantage is sought in the market to compensate financially for innovation efforts.

What are defensible competitive advantages? E.g. having the best people on your team, or being first to market, having exclusive access to rare resources, or being able to establish a strong network effect. Of course, high brand recognition or a monopoly right through a well-positioned patent are also valuable. Ultimately, IP strategy is a creative task in which much depends on timing and knowledge of one's own goals, customers and competitors.

In addition to registered property rights such as patents, designs and trademarks, informal innovation protection measures should not be underestimated. Secrecy measures protect trade secrets, for example, contractual agreements can be highly individualized, and sensible interleaving of hardware and software protects both. Data enjoys copyright protection as a database.

IP instruments are team players, they support and strengthen each other in defensive rings. By itself, each measure is weak. In selecting the right tools, appropriate to the available budget, the entire management team can profitably contribute (sales, operations management, engineering, marketing, innovation management, business development). Certainly, this is a big effort, but it is worth it to secure the values of the company.

A key strategic aspect is the licensing of IP or technology transfer. Basically, this is understood to mean the use of intellectual property rights, software or know-how by third parties, which is subject to contractual agreements.

A license is therefore the granting of a right to use intangible (property) rights by a licensor to a licensee. Depending on the role played by the licensee, this is also referred to as in-licensing or out-licensing.

The motives for licensing vary - here are a few examples:

  • Generating additional income through licensing (either with or without the possibility of using the licensed object oneself, e.g. to apply processes or manufacture products).
  • Permission to use within the group of companies (group licenses)
  • License exchange agreements (cross-licensing)
  • Settlement of property right disputes (usually negative license)