The hidden value in your USP

The hidden value in your USP

Where there is a USP, there is IP whether it is registrable or not. Its important to preserve that valuable IP in order to ensure that it can continue to give your business its competitive edge. Do you know where to find the hidden value in your USP?

Where to Start

Intangible assets are the intellectual and creative elements within a business. Things like inventions, brands, software, know-how, artistic creations and designs, etc.  Various IP provisions serve to protect these elements and, therefore, offer a competitive advantage because you can stop your competitors from doing the same thing.  IP protection essentially makes the intangible more tangible and can, therefore, add significant value to a business.

So where is the hidden value in your USP? Take some time here to think about the intellectual and creative aspects of your business that make it unique. Why do (or will) customers come to you rather than your nearest competitor?  What aspects of the business, if a competitor copies them (possibly badly), would cause damage to your business or reputation?  If you do not have a clear understanding of the full extent of the intangible assets within your business, they are unlikely to be  adequately valued or preserved.

Unlocking the hidden value in your USP

Unlocking the hidden value in your USP

It is clear that once an intangible asset (i.e. a key to your USP) has been identified and the associated IP has been established, it must add value to the business because it offers some competitive advantage. However, it’s true value will be dependent on the importance to the business of the element it covers.  As an extreme example, if you were selling a processor-controlled device, the copyright in your user manual, whilst having some (possibly nominal) value, will not be as valuable as the copyright in the software code that controls the device. These types of distinction need to be made and reviewed regularly to ensure that you’re placing emphasis on (and spending money in) the right parts of your business.

In today’s world, we are seeing increasingly complex innovations that include various artistic, creative, technical and functional aspects, any or all of which can be protected by one or more of the different IP provisions available worldwide. These include copyright, unregistered and registered designs, patents, trade marks, trade secrets, database rights, and semiconductor topography rights.  For this reason, especially now, it’s important that you make strategic use of IP to protect your products or services.  Some of these IP rights arise automatically, as soon as something has been created, designed, recorded or written. But it’s just as important to know that that IP right is there. What element it covers. And how your IP management policies should look in order to preserve those rights to their full extent. IP cannot add value to a business if you don’t know it’s there!

Next Steps

An IP audit provides an ‘snapshot’ of your business. It should identify the IP it currently has, mapped to your commercial activities and goals. This means that you can see and address any ‘gaps’ or risks.  If you have never had a formal IP audit performed before, try completing the UK Intellectual Property Office Health check ( However, an IP attorney usually performs a full IP audit, which is better designed to pick up less widely-known rights like know-how, trade secrets and database rights.

Going Forward

Once you know exactly what IP you own, we can formulate a good IP strategy. This should set out how that IP should be protected or safeguarded to maximise or preserve its value; and how it should (or could) be leveraged to ensure that it works to protect the important parts of your business, or to help your business to grow, for example. A good IP strategy should also ensure that the cost of preserving IP does not outweigh the benefit, of course.  The detail here lies in your own commercial plans and goals: with your IP carefully mapped to those as part of the IP audit process, the ways in which it can effectively be leveraged usually become clear and a powerful IP strategy starts to emerge, so that the hidden value in your USP can be unleashed!

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