Partnering for Commercial Advantage

Posted on 01 Nov, 2021
By IPOS International

Many businesses find the process of innovation difficult to execute single- handedly. Some do not have all the resources in-house to take an idea through research and development to commercialisation. For others, the challenge lies in successfully incorporating external inventions that meet a market need within an existing product or service portfolio. Whatever your motivation for working with others: how can you gain and retain control to make sure your collaboration is a success?

Where security and confidentiality are important, as is often the case with ideas that are rich in intellectual property, it can be tempting to try to manage the innovation process in-house from start to finish. However, unless you are very well resourced, this may simply be too slow a route to market. Accordingly, both mature businesses and early-stage companies with financial constraints find it a more successful strategy to seek out enterprising ways of meeting market demand, and stay ahead of their competitors, by working with external partners.

Collaborations may take many different forms. You may wish to tap into academic research expertise, license-in external IP, license-out your own IP rights, or work with a sub-contractor (such as a manufacturer, designer, software engineer, photographer or website developer). In such cases, you will find that although IP rights are intangible assets, they can be used to leverage commercial value in a company just like tangible assets.

Whenever you are collaborating with others, it’s important to manage the knowledge brought to or created by your project with care. Otherwise, it may be difficult to speak openly about, protect, commercialise or prevent future use of this knowledge.

Overall, trust and knowledge are key to any successful relationship. It is important to choose your partners wisely, conduct some basic due diligence before entering into a partnership and, wherever appropriate, put in place professionally drafted legal agreements. Every collaboration is different—but this guide, in conjunction with others in this series, will help you get the basics right.