How far can IP go to protect and monetize your business?

Lymesol founders, Gerald and April share their experience in an interview with us.

BEAMSTART24 Jan, 2018

How far can IP go to protect and monetize your business?

We often hear stories about ideas being copied and large companies suing over "Intellectual Property". 

We also read about how companies have been valued significantly higher due to the intellectual property they possess. How does one monetize the intellectual property they own?

We caught up with founders of Lymesol Sdn Bhd - Gerald Cheong and April Lim who shared more of their thoughts and experiences on the value Intellectual Property (IP) could bring to companies.

1) What is Lymesol about and how did you get started? What sort of solutions do you provide and what spurred the start of this whole venture?

Lymesol is a “boutique” Intellectual Property services company. We say “boutique” because we specialize in Intellectual Property, which is quite different from a typical law firm which offers a wide range of legal services.

Apart from Intellectual Property services, Lymesol also offers Graphic Design services. The reason to this is because we want to be a “one-stop centre” for our clients. Design and Intellectual Property go hand-in-hand, especially during the early pre-registration stage.

By doing this, we are able to offer clients design services should the require it prior to trademark registration.

Lymesol started because we felt the need to bring and spread Intellectual Property to the masses.

Typically, a normal consumer would always associate Intellectual Property with lawyers, and law firms. And by doing so, they would have this preconception that Intellectual Property is a very daunting and expensive thing to do.

We want to change this misconception. We believe that Intellectual Property is a valuable, inexpensive intangible property which will add value to anyone’s business.

Lymesol offers a wide range of Intellectual Property services such as Trademark Search and Registration, Copyright, Patent, Industrial Design, Logo Design, Point-of-Sale Material design, Web design & 3D perspectives.

2) What do you feel is the problem with the IP industry in Malaysia? Do you feel there’s a lack of awareness? What can be done about it?

Lack of awareness is definitely one of the biggest issues related to Intellectual Property in Malaysia.

There is just very little awareness amongst the public. It is so bad that most of the times, people confuse Intellectual Property with Real Estate, simply due to the word “Property”.

For those who are aware of what Intellectual Property is, they rarely see the importance of it - “Why spend so much to register? My brand isn't big and nobody will copy it” is a very common reply we get.

Next is cost, generally people assume that Intellectual Property protection is expensive. What they fail to realize is that Intellectual Property protection is actually an investment which will value-add to the business.

To solve this, awareness and knowledge of Intellectual Property has to be disseminated at a very early stage. For example, we can start incepting the idea and importance of Intellectual Property protection from the secondary education level.

It doesn’t even have to be a direct mention of Intellectual Property, as long as we are able to get the message across that whatever the mind perceives, and that is "ideas and work created has potential, and it should be protected".

Once we learn how to cherish and hold value to these intangible items, then we have successfully disseminated the value and importance of Intellectual Property protection.

3) What is your advice to young startups that are starting out with regards to IP?

PROTECT IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE - That would be our advice for your startups.

This is because, the Malaysian system (and pretty much around the world) is a “first to file” system. What this means is, pretty much anyone is able to register your brand or logo, even if they are not the true owners.

If they have done so, then you as the true owner, will face complications during registration as the Registrar will see that there was already a prior application, which will result in your application being rejected.

Hence, we always advise our clients, once the logo or brand has been finalized, immediately have it registered. Before spending more money and effort into marketing the brand, please ensure that the necessary steps have been taken to protect the brand in every way possible.

You wouldn’t want to be caught in a situation whereby, you’ve just spent thousands, tens, or even hundreds of thousands into Advertising & Promotion only to find out that you can't have your trademark registered because someone else has already done so before you.

You will end up losing the registration attempt and be forced to rebrand your service or product, which would require additional expenses for Advertising & Promotion again.

Gerald Cheong, co-founder of Lymesol

4) Share with us some strategies that companies could use to monetize their IP.

Intellectual Property is a form of intangible property. And like any property, one is able to monetize it.

The most common method of monetization is by way of licensing. Retailers will often build their brand up, and once they reach a certain level, they will offer licensing or franchising for interested investors (or anyone who is looking to have a piece of that business).

Apart from licensing, one should also be aware that Intellectual Property actually adds value to the company.

As we all know, there is value to a brand. The bigger the sales, the more variety of products, the more famous a brand gets, the value of that said brand goes up.

Of course, the above won’t be achievable without some form of investment from the brand owners. This “investment” is of course, spending money for A&P (advertising and promotion).

Proper effective A&P isn’t just about money. It also boils down to research, and many hours of brainstorming within the company and with a third party. All these takes time, and time is of course, money.

With that being said, a successful brand is a very valuable asset to any company.

This can be monetized if one is looking to sell the company. Whether in part or whole.

The value of the brand itself should always be taken into consideration.

The entire cost to build the brand and make it rise from the rest, should always be considered into the sale price.

5) There are many new technology startups coming up today, some raise millions of dollars and grow quicker than traditional businesses. What’re your thoughts on this?

In our opinion, it's no surprise that tech startups are rapidly coming up. In this age and time, everybody is looking for ways innovate and separate themselves from the competition. Going digital is one of those ways.

Besides separating themselves from the competition, providing additional convenience to the consumer is also a reason for the influx of tech startups. Very often we see traditional business models being turned into an online digital business.

This of course, comes at the grief of most traditional businesses, as they are surely affected by online businesses.

However, we believe that as time goes by, these traditional businesses will embrace the digital era, and both digital and traditional businesses will be able to work hand-in-hand.

6) Share a little about your challenges running your business online.

Our main challenge when it comes to running this business in the digital space, is the process. Although the frontend is mostly online, the backend is still very much manual.

Each application has to be checked and re-checked by an officer from the Registrar. This process is time consuming, but necessary as Intellectual Property can be very sensitive. There are certain elements of each application which require the attention of an actual person to make a fair decision.

7) What do you hope to change/impact in Malaysia in the long term? What’s next for you/your venture?

We hope that Malaysian businesses will start to see the importance of Intellectual Property protection, irregardless if they're new or old, be it for legal purposes, business purposes, or even just to add value to the company.

Our next goal is to penetrate deeper into the local retail & manufacturing industry. We see potential in retail as many young entrepreneurs are dipping their feet into the fast moving world of retail.

Local manufacturers are also fiercely looking to expand their reach worldwide.

We are also looking to disseminate Intellectual Property to the tertiary level. The tertiary education level is for most individuals, the final path of education before they venture into the working/business world.

Hence, they should be made aware of the importance of Intellectual Property, so that they could benefit or take advantage of it, should the need or opportunity arise.

One will never know when a good idea will arise, and when it does, we should be ready to take the necessary steps to legally protect that idea, before it’s too late.

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