A strategy is a high-level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty, and generally involves setting these goals, determining the actions to achieve these goals, and mobilizing resources to execute these actions. Considering the fact that resources are mostly limited, actions to achieve these goals need to be chosen wisely.

Investing in developing an intellectual property portfolio is, strictly speaking, a decision for the long-term. In devising such a strategy, an organization must take a deeper dive in the following four areas:

If you have no comprehensive overview of the intangible assets you own, don’t worry. Most companies don’t. So developing such an overview, as well as a process for obtaining such overview and keeping this up-to-date for the future is a good first step.

On the other hand, you may also would like to see where your competitors are investing in, which exclusive rights do they have, and whether they are enforcing these.

Whether as a result of an identification exercise or on an ad hoc basis, companies should review protection opportunities for their intangible assets: apply for patents or trademark registrations, keeping technical or business information secret, etc.

When seeking to obtain patent or trademark protection, it is important to factor in application and maintenance costs (annuities) which, depending on the number of countries in which you would like to have IP protection, can be significant.

In this step, IP owners review and justify how their intangibles contribute to their overall business: do they use IP rights as a marketing tool? Will the company grant licenses to third parties and hence generate (additional) revenue streams? Does IP help them to obtain tax breaks?

When obtaining IP protection, it is important to also factor in potential enforcement costs. IP litigation can be extremely expensive, so one needs to ask the question whether it is worthwhile investing in – for instance – patent protection in a faraway country if there is no plan to enforce exclusive rights there.