Intellectual Property Strategy

Intellectual Property

The first step is to determine what Intellectual Property you actually have. This is usually broader than you initially think.


Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property Audit

So before you can have an Intellectual Property Strategy, you will need to do an Intellectual Property Audit or IP Audit. IP Australia has an excellent guide to how to do this at Auditing Your IP so if you haven’t done this already, I recommend you read through the guide.


IP Australia

IP Australia


Intellectual Property Strategy

Now you have identified your Intellectual Property using an IP Audit, you can put together your Intellectual Property Strategy or IP Strategy. How to go about this depends on a lot of factors. Some examples are:


  • US Patents have moved from priority given to “first to invent”, to priority given to “first to file”. So filing early is now critical if you want protection or even the right to deploy your own invention which pre-dated a patent from a competitor.
  • Different domains have different rules for determining patent infringement. For instance, The EU see protecting the idea as important and not just the specific wording of the patent.
  • If you want to defend a patent, you will need to fund the defence.
  • Trademarks get more respect than patents so use trademarks.
  • Trademarks potentially have unlimited life whereas patents and registered designs have finite life.
  • But you will have many other IP Resources including Trade Secrets which also potentially have infinite life.

You also need to have “Freedom to Operate“. This means your new invention could infringe someone else’s IP Rights. So it is also necessary to check that there isn’t a Patent, Trademark or Registered Design that you would be in breach of infringing if you proceeded. And if you are, you might want to look at whether you could license the technology. A recent change in IP Law means that a Patent holder cannot be unreasonable in restraining your business opportunity, and particularly if they are not competing with you, and especially if they are primarily acquiring and sitting on patents, or patent trolling.


The general steps of an IP Strategy are:


  • Decide who in your organisation will take responsibility for IP
  • And what you will do in house, and where you will get an IP Lawyer involved
  • Do an IP Audit and identify your Intellectual Property Assets
  • Determine if you have registered all these assets
  • If not, register trademarks and designs and that you want to protect
  • Decide if and how you will monitor for infringement of your IP
  • Be prepared to retire IP that is no longer of value
  • Ensure trade secrets and confidential information is secure

My thanks to Duncan Bucknell of Think IP Strategy for providing advice on this topic.


Duncan Bucknell - Think IP Strategy

Duncan Bucknell

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Intellectual Property Policy

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property, or IP as it is abbreviated, is a very important topic. So what is Intellectual Property?


Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

The diagram above shows some examples. Here are some more examples of Intellectual Property that specifically apply to the Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development:


  • Patents
  • Copyright
  • Industrial design rights
  • Plant varieties
  • Trademarks
  • Trade dress
  • Trade secrets

Copyright applies to things such as:


  • specification and requirements documents
  • reports
  • source code
  • schematic designs
  • PCB layouts
  • Bills of Materials (BOMs)
  • Product assembly and test instructions
  • source code
  • this blog

So a lot of the value created in a new Product Development project is bound up in the Intellectual Property generated.


Why this is important, is that many individuals and companies that offer Product Development services do not give you Intellectual Property Rights to the product you paid them to develop for you. We have picked up quite a few projects over the years where this lead to a toxic relationship between the client and the developer and they needed to go elsewhere.


Protecting your Intellectual Property

To protect your Intellectual Property the obvious steps are:


  • Have a non-disclosure agreement in place prior to sharing any information with another party
  • Ensure all staff and contractors have signed a non-disclosure agreement
  • Check out patents early. Both to determine if you might be able to patent, and also to make sure you aren’t violating anyone else’s rights.
  • Although Copyright vests automatically in Australia, do use Copyright notices
  • Make everyone clear on what your Intellectual Property Policy is
  • Register designs and trademarks
  • Also purchase relevant domain names

Intellectual Property Policy

A question we are often asked is “What is your Intellectual Property Policy“?


Here is how we handle IP including our own which we can license into your project to save both time and cost:


  • IP developed for you is owned exclusively by you and not used for any other purpose
  • IP provided by you is owned by you and only used for the purpose it was provided for
  • we will not share anybody else’s IP with you without their prior permission
  • we will not share your IP with anyone else without your prior permission
  • the non-exclusive license to our background IP is a single purchase at an agreed price and can be leveraged across multiple products
  • where improvements in our background IP become available, they can be incorporated into your product and only the modification cost applies
  • we regularly sign non-disclosure agreements and even have one of our own you can use if you don’t have a suitable one yourself

And the last part is usually about how we charge for all this. These are specific costs associated with generating your exclusive IP for a product. Where variants are then designed, only the adaptation or variation cost will be incurred. So for instance, changing from one NB-IoT vendor’s cellular modem to another modem from another vendor will only cost the PCB changes and code modification costs and would be expected to be substantially less cost than the initial implementation.


Another way to put all this, is that if you pay for it, you own it without any encumbrance.


Our aim is to ensure your success so it doesn’t make sense to make it difficult for you to own and exploit your own Intellectual Property.


And a little humour to finish off.


Copyright Humour

Copyright Humour

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

2009 EDN Innovation Awards Finalist

EDN Innovation Awards Finalist

EDN Innovation Awards

EDN Innovation Awards

EDN Innovation Awards

This is a bit of a different post. I’m pretty stoked that we are finalists in the 2009 EDN Innovation Awards in 2 separate categories. The award categories are:

  • Best Application Of Analogue Design
  • Best Application Of Design Software


So I thought I might let you know a bit more about the project, and also give a public thanks to Pablo Varjabedian of Borgtech for allowing us to put the project forward. We design Electronics and Embedded Software products primarily for Australian Electronics Manufacturers. Our focus is outstanding Electronics Design that will propel them into a world class competitive position while delivering improved profit margins. Low Cost Electronics Manufacture but with outstanding performance and reliability.


We routinely use non-disclosure agreements, NDAs, with our clients and so don’t usually get the chance to put our design work forward for awards because we will never disclose a client’s Intellectual Property, IP, without their express permission. In this case Borgtech gave us permission and so we were able. As you can probably see, there is a real benefit to the client in allowing the award application because they also get recognition for the product.


This is also not an unusual project for us. We have done a lot of outstanding work over the 12 years we have been in operation. So it is good to have some of it recognised by the Industry we are so passionate about.


Electronics Design Details

This project was an example of our Project Priorities Perspective in action. In this case Performance was the primary concern with cost coming second and time coming last. We spent the time to get the performance up and the cost down. There was an earlier post on one aspect of this project where we looked at Analogue Electronics as a way to improve battery life in a Low Powered Electronics Data Logger.


The Electronics Design trade offs were:

  • OH&S or Operational Health and Safety – must protect users from hazardous voltages
  • Low Power Electronics – operates from 3 AA cells for up to 6 months
  • Convenience – Analogue front end completely Software Controlled
  • High Reading Accuracy – millivolt resolution over +/-10V range with 60dB Mains Rejection

There were many other Design Requirements but the above list are the core Electronics Design Requirements addressed as part of the award nomination. Below I will look at each of these in turn.

Protection From Hazardous Voltages

Now lets look at the hazardous voltage issue in a little bit more detail. The voltages in questions were:

  • 5000V, 5KV, for 2 seconds
  • 250VAC continuously

These come about due to the conduction of Lightning Strike Transients or Mains Leakage Voltages onto the Pipelines and Storage Tanks monitored for Corrosion Protection status. The Analogue Electronics front end had to provide protection against these cases while meeting all the other Design Requirements. And of course quickly settle so that only the readings during the disturbance were affected.


It also led to the use of an 802.15.4 RF Telemetry Link because this meant the monitoring PC could do Real Time Monitoring without hazard. Many other products in this industry use RS232, RS485 or even I2C connections for monitoring, configuration and upload of the Data Logger Records. In the case of the Borgtech CPL2 you can put it in place and then configure it and start the logging with no danger to the operator apart from the moment of electrical connection. And the initial part of the run can be monitored to ensure everything is correctly set up. Otherwise you could get a months worth of data that was useless.


And finally, because of the power budget and the possibility of the batteries going flat, the Analogue Electronics had to survive the above Abuse Voltages unpowered!

Low Power Electronics

The Borgtech CPL2 is a Battery Operated device. There are several reasons for this but the three most relevant are that it is:

  • IP68 sealed against water ingress – it is often installed in a pit that can flood
  • Must operate remotely from a convenient power source
  • Protects the operator and PC from Transient Voltages since there isn’t a direct electrical connection

But this is also part of the challenge. For convenience it used off the shelf batteries you can buy at any service station. But to get 6 months life required a strong Power Management approach including powering down anything not in use including the Analogue front end. If you are taking a reading every minute over six months then most of the device is off most of the time. In this mode the average Power Consumption is 37uA.

Analogue Electronics – Software Controlled

The Borgtech CPL2 handles both Current Shunt and voltage mode readings. The Analogue Electronics were designed to have a software selectable full scale range of +/-10VDC and +/-150mVDC so that is could do either mode of operation from the same input. The previous model required a different connection for each of these modes and most other models on the market are the same.


And all of this while maintaining accuracy, abuse voltage protection and low power operation.

High Reading Accuracy

By the standards of an Agilent (I still want to call them Hewlett Packard) 6.5 digit laboratory multimeter our millivolt, mV, resolution at +/-10VDC isn’t rocket science. But for a device with the Voltage Abuse Protection and Low Power Electronics requirements we had to meet, it is pretty good. Another small twist you might not recognise is that it is +/-10VDC. This means you can monitor it with the polarity inverted and fix it up later on by inverting all the readings. The previous model was unipolar and so you couldn’t do this meaning you could have just wasted a month. And then there is the live monitoring so you can see what the readings look like before leaving the unit to log away in the background.


EDN Innovation Awards

On 17 September 2009 we know the final outcome but either way I am pretty happy to have the recognition this project has already received.


Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile.This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.