IP throughout the product innovation cycle

Whether you are a start-up or an established company that uses innovation to stay ahead of your competitors, launching a successful new product can be likened to doing a jigsaw puzzle: all of the different elements or pieces need to fit together in the right way, many of the pieces are linked in some way to one or more of the others, and intellectual property (IP) represents the piece that completes the picture. In this blog series, we look at how IP is intertwined with all of the other pieces of the jigsaw, and why you should consider IP throughout the product innovation cycle.

Why consider IP right from the start of the product development cycle?

In this first blog, we will look at IP issues at the start of the product development cycle, during the R&D phases. Thinking about IP right from the start can, not only help you to avoid costly mistakes, but it can actually help to guide the R&D process.

Patent Landscaping

Patent landscape searches and analysis can help you to identify your main competitors, where their R&D focus has been, and also where there may be gaps in the field that you could consider filling.

Patentability Searches

Once you have settled on a new product idea, a patentability search can be done to find out if your product idea is, in fact, as new as you think. This, in turn, will help you to identify what, if anything, about your idea is sufficiently unique to (eventually) support your own patent application. It can also help during the product development stages, as you can use any ideas and solutions from expired patents or lapsed/withdrawn patent applications, which could ultimately save you re-inventing the wheel”.

Infringement and Due Diligence

You might want to consider having infringement searches performed, to find out, early on, whether or not your new product might infringe someone else’s patent or design rights. This is not always a feasible or sensible use of a limited R&D budget – it will depend entirely on the circumstances of the business – but it can be considered; especially if, for example, a potential investor would like some peace of mind in that regard.


If you are using an external consultant or product development company to help with the design, development and/or prototyping of your new product, you must make sure that there is an agreement in place between you that stipulates that you/your company will own all of the IP rights in and to the product at each and all of the development stages, and that the external consultant or design company agrees to assign all such rights to you or your company when the work is complete.

Patents and Registered Designs vs. Trade Secrets

This is a good time to consider how best to protect your new product, to give you a head start in the market and ensure that you can stop your competitors from benefiting from your R&D investment. Patents protect technical novelty and registered designs protect the outward appearance of a product. But there may also be cause to consider trade secrets: is there anything about or within your product that could feasibly be protected as a trade secret? If so, although there is no formal registration process (as there is for patents and registered designs), but there are still things that will need to be done, right from the start, to ensure that it is properly encapsulated and managed so that it qualifies for trade secret protection.

A word of warning…

In order to ensure that all avenues for IP protection remain open to you, you must not disclose your invention to anyone (except in confidence under NDA) unless and until a UK patent application and/or UK design application has been filed.

Need Help?

If you need help with this, or any other, IP issue, please do book a free initial consultation by emailing vicki.strachan@strachanip.co.uk or visit our website at https://strachanip.co.uk/contact/

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