I like the centuries-old story some call “Acres of Diamonds?” A wealthy, content farmer learns about diamonds and then considers himself poor because he has none. He sells his farm and goes searching for diamonds. When he fails to find any, he casts himself into the sea, dejected. Back on what was the man’s farm, the new owner finds a sparkling stone in a stream running through the land. The new owner digs and digs, and finds acres of diamonds.
You know the moral: Look around you before you go off in hopes of fulfilling your dreams elsewhere. You may have a hidden gem in your company, something that’s very valuable that you don’t even know you own. This is true for many companies. There is untapped, even unknown, potential. There are things the company can utilize that it isn’t. There is wealth that is hidden.
But if these hidden gems aren’t sparkling, how do we know them when we see them?
Typically, we know many companies have more value in intellectual property than they know. You may not think of things as intellectual property – customer lists, relationships with suppliers and vendors, a know-how that others don’t have – that are highly valuable. Drawings and diagrams that pertain to your industry, your reputation in the marketplace are more examples of what can be considered intellectual property.
#1. Inventory. You first need to understand what you own. Consider anything you have that could add economic value to someone else. Look for intangibles that are of great value. Think about how you could transfer them to someone else, and how someone else could use them. Think outside the box. You know, the customer list doesn’t have to be used in connection with your business. The list could be used by someone who has a similar business. It could be super leveraged by someone who owns a business with a parallel product, maybe in a slightly different industry because it would provide a whole new database of potential customers.
#2. Protect. Think broadly here. After you have a good inventory of your intellectual property, you need a protection plan. Formal filings. Copyrights. Trademarks. Other registrations. What can you try to protect with trade secrets, non-disclosure agreements, and other terms?
For most companies, it’s a matter of dollars and cents. How valuable is the intellectual property and what economic resources are available to protect it? If you have these issues, call your lawyer. Start building your plan for the future. Find and protect your hidden diamonds.
What are your thoughts? Have you had hidden intellectual property in your businesses? How have you positioned yourself for growth? Join us in the comments.
This posting is intended to be a tool to familiarize readers with some of the issues discussed herein. This is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion and additional details should be discussed with your attorneys, accountants, consultants, bankers and other business planners who can provide advice for your circumstances. This article should not be treated as legal advice to any person or entity. Freeimages.com/Photographer Candice Courtney.
About the Author
Shawn McBride — R. Shawn McBride is the Managing Member of The R. Shawn McBride Law Firm, PLLC. Shawn works successful, private business owners in their growth and missions to make a company that stands the test of time. You can email R. Shawn McBride or call 407-517-0064.
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