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1. What is IP?

Business now exists in an ideas or knowledge-based economy, where ownership of fixed assets is no longer important to business success.


This new economy has enabled banks, hotels, and taxi companies to take global leadership positions without owning any physical assets such as buildings, hotels, or vehicles.

The Standard and Poor 500 has switched over in the last 40 years from being 80% tangible to 80% intangible, and yet you would think the business world has not really noticed. This means business has changed from the value being predominantly tied up in machinery, buildings and materials and switched over to the value being in people, ideas, creativity, reputation, knowledge, process, platform, data and code, just look closely at all power brands of today. In these businesses the majority value is in assets you cannot touch or ‘bump into’.

We all understand, almost intrinsically, how we need to protect fixed assets such as buildings and cars; but most people struggle to understand how to protect business assets that they cannot touch.

This matters because your IP has value, especially when supporting your business to carve out its successful niche, and protecting your turf against intruders, but also possibly independently in its own right. For example, IP can be used for non-dilutive capital raises; it can be licensed, sold, included as negotiation chips in business development deals and even securitised.

IP enables the protection of these assets and importantly the sharing of such assets.

2. Do I have IP and if so what do I need to do to protect it?

You may not have fully acknowledged yet, but it is very likely that a large part of your business valuation will be based on intangible assets such as ideas, inventions, know-how, relationships, and brands.


  • Government registered intellectual property includes patents, designs, trademarks, and some copyright (certain countries).
  • Unregistered intellectual property includes trademarks, designs, copyright, trade secrets, know-how, data bases, data, relationships, licenses, customer lists, software, software licenses, reputation, domain names, websites plus social media presence and influence.
  • Some of your intellectual property will be disclosed and hence made public and some will remain undisclosed, private and confidential to your business.

3. Why is it important for me to protect myself and my business against IP issues?

If you don't recognise and protect your intellectual property, then you are putting your business at risk that somebody else does and identifies the value before you do.

Whether you are hiring new employees, forming a partnership, doing M&A, launching a new product, realising innovation tax credits, complying with OECD BEPS and GDPR, investing in R&D, creating images, web designs or product packaging, writing copy, blogs, tweets or software code with and without the use of opensource; then you are using and creating intellectual property.

Intellectual property management is not a one-off exercise it's an evolving developing process that sits closely aligned to your business plan. It is more like a road map detailing the intellectual property steps alongside the developments of the business, the competitive landscape, the objectives and finally the budget.

Businesses achieving the highest rates of growth invest most in intangibles: A 2021 McKinsey report shows those companies experiencing faster growth invest 2.6 times more in intangibles than their slower-growing counterparts.

If you don't know what you've got and you're not managing it there is every chance that your IP is leaking or being misappropriated, either inadvertently or deliberately.

4. What’s the first thing I need to do in terms of protecting myself against IP issues?

Senior management must know what intellectual property the business owns in order to drive maximum value from it. Most senior management will be able to list trademarks, patents, and some copyright, but how about all the other intangible things to give your company a competitive advantage?

I am talking about things such as trade secrets, customer lists, know how, proprietary data, supplier agreements, digital brand equity, software code, etc.

Think about what drives your competitive advantage and what your competitors would most like to steal from you.

If you don't know what you've got and you're not managing it there is every chance that your IP is leaking or being misappropriated, either inadvertently or deliberately.

You need an IP action plan and when those actions fall in the timeline should depend on your budget and business objectives.

5. What can you do to help me?

We help businesses to compete and win with intellectual property, to protect their secret sauce and competitive advantage using IP in the most effective way for their goals and current situation. 

For over 21 years we have been helping founders, entrepreneurs and leaders turn intellectual property into valuable business assets. We develop IP strategies with both unregistered IP rights and registered IP rights, blended to build value and competitive sharpness for your business.  Our mission is to help businesses increase their value by using intellectual property to protect ideas, creativity, innovation, and competitive advantage. 

Your business will be playing the game of intellectual property at some stage. You would not enter a chess tournament without knowing the rules of chess, including the how each different piece can be engaged. The same is true of the intellectual property game.

Forewarned really is forearmed

6. What can I do to protect my brand?

Brand can be one of the most powerful and enduring of intellectual property rights.

A strong brand helps to shape how customers perceive and feel about a business, product or service. A brand is much more than the markers, logos and slogans used to identify it. Brands can be protected by a range of different methods including trademarks.

Creating a new brand, new product, service, or business name can be a very time consuming and potentially expensive process. Most IP experts will advise checking registered business names and trademark attorneys always undertake a thorough search of the national trademark registers to see if the name is already in use.

During the brand development stage, a thorough online search should also be undertaken.

..... on Google, of domain name registries and on social media platforms to see whether there is anything confusingly similar or even identical? A Google search shows if there is a website it does not show if there is a domain registered where the website has not yet been published.

Protecting the brand should involve a combination of thorough search, unregistered rights and registered trademark rights.

Online theft, counterfeiting, spoofing and fraud are all too prevalent and will no doubt impact your brand at some stage. Online brand protection measures are therefore highly advisable to maintain the integrity of the brand.

7. If I’m already in a dispute over IP what do I need to do?

IP disputes will happen at some stage, and ideally you will have prepared for this eventuality through executing on an IP strategy which anticipated risks and value opportunities.

The key is to understand your position as completely as possible and to seek to avoid legal disputes for as long as possible.

Do not delay acting on these situations, since your delay could be costly and worse construed as ‘not caring’ and you do not want others to be able to infringe through such a judgement.

Developing a strategy and team, including external advisers and lawyers, is crucial to navigating safely through these choppy waters.

Clients Love

Dawn Elvin

Former Senior Vice President, Personal Health Care & General Manager Global Pharmacy at Procter & Gamble John is a highly accomplished insightful leader who leverages his extensive experience to identify and guide on how to make the most of company intellectual property. His interventions open up a wealth of strategic options providing significant growth opportunities.

Neil Court Johnson

John has played an invaluable role in assisting us to develop and implement a trade secrets programme, to identify and roll out IP best practice in process and systems - and has provided us with critical support regarding IP in real life business negotiations. I would strongly recommend John as a business partner.

Christine Jennings

I have worked with John for many years within the IP industry. He has an impressive ability to identify opportunities and turn these into commercial business deliverables.

Katie Gordon

I was very confused about what unregistered trademark and registered trademarks were, IP protection and simply how to protect my business and IP assets.

Brian Mwenda

“It is always a delight working with John. He has been an invaluable resource to our business as we build our intellectual property asset base. We have successfully received registration for trademarks and patents while following an IP strategy developed by John.

Harry Dunlop

“I was fortunate enough to work with John relatively early-on in my career and look back on that time extremely fondly. John is an exceptional and instinctive mentor and coach who always brings a wealth of business and IP experience to any situation with understanding and compassion.

Simon Webster

I thoroughly enjoyed working with John. We built two new products together, worked on challenging market and customer opportunities and had a great deal of fun along the way.

Colin Hunter

I have known John for many years and I value his logic, his structured thinking and his ability to make complex simple especially, not not only, in IP. Would recommend him highly as a strategic and thinking partner.

Christian Bunke

Exalt IP coached us on how to achieve amazing value for our IP assets when we sold the business and the IP separately

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Brand is the most powerful and enduring IP right.
Creating a new brand, new product, service, or business name can be a very time consuming and potentially expensive process.
The creative branding process is fun and exhilarating but rarely are IP considerations included early enough in the process and this can lead to a whole world of pain later.
Better therefore to integrate IP considerations early in the branding process to avoid wasted time and energy.
Most IP experts will advise checking registered business names and trademark attorneys always undertake a thorough search of the national trademark registers to see if the name is already in use.
But all business is now online!