Course reflection

Congratulations! You are on the last step of the course “Intellectual Property Management in the Food Sector: Safeguarding Your Trademarks in the Global Marketplace”. You are about to complete four weeks of material. It is time to get a cup of coffee (or tea), sit back, and reflect on what you have learned.

During this course you have learned the basics of what IP is and how to strategically manage it both practically and legally. This course in of itself has not made you an expert, but has made you aware of this important asset and of your need to manage it properly. You have done this through the lens of the food sector, i.e., you have learned all the concepts in relation to this important sector. You have heard from IP management experts both from a theoretical point of view and from experts managing IP in global companies. You have learned how to identify IP assets in your company and basics strategies for safeguarding and exploiting them.

In the first week of the course you learned how Intellectual Property differs from other types of property, i.e. real property. You learned how to identify IP and will become familiar with the basic legal protection that is afforded to IP. You should now understand what Intellectual and real property have in common and, more importantly, how they differ. You should be able to identify how each are created, used, shared, and sold. You have also learned about the different types of IP and the associated differences of how the each type can be protected. You have learned why IP is recognized by governments and how it helps both the owner of the property and society as a whole.

During the second week of the course you studied some of the material covered in the first week of the course in greater detail. You began by becoming familiar with what IP is. Firstly you learned that an idea is not intellectual property and cannot be protected. Then you learned about the six different types of IP: patent, utility model, copyright, trademark, registered design, and trade secret. For each of these you learned type specific information related to legal protection. You became aware of the fact that the legal protection was limited both in time (the amount of time legal protection is given) and space (in which country or countries the protection is given). You also learned that a single product can incorporate more than one type of IP; a so called multipronged approach.

The knowledge of the different types of IP leads us to consider the best IP approach for a given situation. You became familiar with the “protector selector”, a practical tool that helps you select the correct form of IP protection. The “protector selector” highlighted the four criteria for deciding when to seek patent protection as opposed to keeping a trade secret. It also highlighted the subtle differences between a trademark and a registered design. As always, examples from the food sector were given throughout.

During the third week of the course you learned useful strategies for managing IP. You further explored when to pursue legal protection, e.g. with a patent, and when to just keep your IP a secret when the purpose is commercial success. You did so through the lens of innovation, which is closely linked to IP, with the dual consideration of potential profit (size of the prize) and risk (level of certainty).

You became aware of the issues related with working with an outside business partner especially when it relates to legal exposure for telling someone about your IP. You learned with whom it might be risky to make a “confidential disclosure”to. You learned about the legal need for non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) and you became aware of their limitations related to their legal protection afforded to your IP. You learned about the particularities of working with universities. Universities can be great partners, but they differ from a typical business partner in many meaningful ways.

Having obtained a basic grasp of IP and IP management in the first three weeks of the course, in the fourth week the course took on a distinctively practical feel as there were interviews with companies regarding their IP management as well as case studies. Whereas in the first three weeks you learned about IP management and strategy in the food sector from expert educators, in the fourth week you learned about the same topic from the point of view of companies who have successfully managed IP. You did this through a series of case studies and through interviews with those managing IP on a day-to-day basis for large global companies.

You learned how these successful companies have used multipronged and aggressive strategies to protect and monetize their IP assets. The food sector companies that you heard from/about are world leaders in their sectors: Monsanto (case study), Nestlé (interview), PepsiCo (interview) agriculture company, Maspex (case study), and Mida+ (case study).

So far this reflection has focused on what you learned, but our hope is that learners will become doers. It is now time to take your newly acquired knowledge of IP management in the food sector and apply it in practice. Identify IP in your company and insure that it is safeguarded. Make sure that your company is getting the most out of its IP assets. Work only with those partners who respect your IP and consider the special relationship that you can have with universities.

The course is now over; it has been a pleasure having you learn with us.

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This article is from the free online course:

Intellectual Property Management in the Food Sector: Safeguarding Your Trademarks in the Global Marketplace

EIT Food