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Simple ways to protect and add value to your management rights business

By Frank Higginson06 Apr 2011

Intellectual property forms part of the intangible assets (along with goodwill) that is your management rights business.

The term ‘intellectual property’ extends to a whole range of things, which we quite often find resident managers ignore in light of their other priorities (such as the need to run a business on a day-to-day basis). As always, the danger only comes when you try to enforce a right that you don’t actually have - like the right to a name or a brand. At that stage, the horse has bolted.

Once understood, and protected, intellectual property simply requires monitoring and maintenance, but no further work. What we are talking about includes:

Websites

Do you actually have the right to use your domain name? It is incredible the amount of times in due diligence we see vendors whose domain name is registered to the person or entity that held the rights before them (or even earlier!).

Email addresses

Create a generic email address for your scheme (manager@xyzapartments.com.au, as an example). Keep your business and personal emails different. When you go to sell your business you have an email address you can then hand over and walk away from.

Phone numbers

Any phone and fax numbers should form part of your business that go to the purchaser. This is especially important in the context of 1800 and other free call numbers.

Business names

Do you trade under a business name or as a registered company? Believe it or not, registering a business name or company may not give you the right to stop someone else using that name - to do that you would need to look at trade marking your business name. Once you have a trade mark, you will add value to your business for a potential purchaser.

Trade mark

At the moment, trade marks are usually only obtained by the very large holiday and corporate buildings. The law with respect to who can trade mark building names has recently been contested and is far from absolutely certain. Suffice to say, if you have a large building and people use your building name as tags to promote their own building, or to steal business from you, having a trademark is a vital form of intellectual property to own to enforce your rights.

Customer lists/databases

These need to be identified and treated as confidential information - otherwise there is a risk that they will become part of the 'public domain.' Your repeat clients are very important to your business - and any prospective purchaser.

Website terms and conditions

Unfair contracts legislation now applies across Australia to protect consumers. Draconian default clauses or other uncommercial terms and conditions can be rendered unlawful and unenforceable by these new laws. Each time someone makes a booking through your website, you enter into a contract with them. It might be worth revisiting your terms and conditions to ensure that they are fair and reasonable.

Of course, we can help with any of these issues if needed!