One of the differences between being an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur is the ownership of the finished project.
An entrepreneur aims to build value to their venture by creating their own intellectual property, or if someone else creates it, ensuring ownership is transferred to them. Essentially, an entrepreneur assumes all of the risks and owns the project it its entirety until they sell it.
An intrapreneur’s work is owned by the company of which they are employed where it is the company which is bearing the majority of the risk. However the same mindset needs to be in place concerning strategy on the creation, recognition and protection of the project outcomes.
So what is intellectual property? In simple terms, it is an asset created by the mind (for an example, an idea) and its value can be protected by the law excluding others from its use.
Common forms of legal protection include patents, copyright, trademarks and the keeping of confidential information confidential (trade secrets). Ideas are not intellectual property by themselves, they have to be in a form that can be protected by law to be intellectual property. In the production of your project where you will determine what your unique value proposition is, including how you will distinguish yourself from competitors, intellectual property will play a major part.
While importance is often placed on having a patentable invention as a necessary component of a successful innovative endeavour, the truth is, other forms of intellectual property can be equally powerful, having great value and worth protecting strategically.
In the instance of Coca Cola, their non-patented intellectual assets, such as the secret formula of Coke, their brand – including their iconic logo, and the shape of their bottles, add enormous value to the company and they work hard to consistently protect and build this value.
Another example of this is the colour purple for Cadbury, they’d used it for over a century before they trademarked the colour.
Therefore just because you may not be producing a patentable technology as part of your project, don’t assume you will not be creating valuable intellectual property for your company.
Are you creating a new product or service name? This can be protected as a trademark and used to build brand value, including increasing existing value in your company’s brand when linked with the new brand (think “Apple” leveraging value off of “ iPhone” or “3M” and “Post-it”).
Perhaps you are developing a new training program, or a process for automating transactions or an app for engaging with your organisation’s customers? These can all be protected as copyrighted material. Maybe you have created and trialled the next big iced tea flavour which you have kept secret – it can be protected as confidential information, and needs to be!
If your organisation has an in-house legal counsel, go have a chat with them early on to understand the basics and so that you can enlist their help as needed as things progress. They will probably be very grateful that you are coming them with an interesting project and before anything has gone wrong. As a corporate lawyer specialising in intellectual property and commercialisation in my previous life, trust me – this is rare and appreciated!
Feel free to get in contact with me at email@example.com if you think your organisation could benefit from an easy to understand and practical workshop on intellectual property and how to use it to create value.