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Intellectual property

The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. Sir Winston Churchill

Ideas of themselves cannot be legally protected. Intellectual property is the manifestation of an original idea in a device or in a design, graphic, picture, sound or form of words on paper, film, sound recording, or electronic equipment. This can be protected by a patent, registered design, trademark, or copyright. The intellectual property that the organization owns may be the biggest differentiator between it and its competitors and as such, should be jealously guarded.

There are many examples of organizations protecting their intellectual property from infringement of patents or the use of their name. Coca Cola has tried to prevent other companies using the word 'Cola' in their name, Rolls Royce has taken action against others describing their products as 'the Rolls Royce' of their type and the producers of Champagne similarly protect their product. Text such as the Holy Bible, the Koran, or well-known sayings, while in the public domain, can still be protected if the text is printed or displayed in an original form. Intellectual property is often extremely valuable, sometimes more so than the real assets. Unfortunately, it can be ‘stolen’ and used without anything physically disappearing.

Patents have a limited life, which includes the time it takes to test and market a product - so the quicker a pharmaceutical company completes the testing of a new drug, the longer it is protected from competitive products when the new drug enters the marketplace. The ability to protect research with patents is a strength of American universities, who are therefore better able to capitalize on their work in the commercial world than universities in other countries. With the wide availability of the Internet, protection of intellectual property is becoming a major problem, since an organization’s intellectual property could be copied and displayed for all to see.

Brands and names: 
A key intellectual property is the brand name of the product or service or the name of the organization itself. A US magazine valued the Coca-Cola brand at $50bn and Nestlé’s ‘Nescafe’ at $10bn. This far outweighed the value of the physical assets of those companies. Brand names can cover a number of products and activities as with Virgin (airline, railway, publishing, financial services) or Disney (movie maker, publisher, retailer, theme parks). >>>