As people in Virginia know, for thousands of years, business leverage has been based on brute strength as well as the quantity and quality of available raw materials. Human muscle power built the pyramids of Egypt and Roman aqueducts. Oxen and draft horses towed barges and moved mills. With the Industrial Revolution machines started doing the work, but the game was still mostly about size, power and strength. The company with the biggest factories and quickest ships usually won.
Around 1980, the accounts of corporations showed that 80 percent of their assets were material and only 20 percent were intangible. Then, there came another revolution. By 1997, nearly three quarters of all corporate assets were intangible. Intangible assets refer to intellectual property (IP) like patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks.
An intellectual property attorney recently produced a study of the growth of importance of intangible assets. He found that IP is no longer monopolized by big business. Small businesses, in fact, can use IP much to their advantage. Placing a heavy emphasis on the importance of intellectual property is an advantage to those businesses with fewer tangible assets and disrupts competitors that place too much emphasis on material goods. Innovations on the internet are making intangible assets all the more important.
The small business formation process should work on developing an IP strategy, even if most of the assets are expected to be tangible. A good intellectual property strategy should plan for the growth and protection of intangible assets and include both the assets businesses create, like patents and secret processes, and acquired assets, such as software. Having the strategy in place at the outset will help the business become and remain competitive.
Source: Forbes, "What Does Your Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy Look Like?", Jim Blasingame, July 15, 2013