This article describes the best method of approaching (or process of conducting) an IP audit or an intangible asset audit. It involves five steps:
Engage, gather documents, conduct background research and agree on audit plan (Step 1)
- Get buy-in from the relevant individuals. This can be facilitated by sending an appropriate communication to the relevant people.
- Create an IP Register for the specific review.
- Request and gather existing policies, agreements, registers (such as an IP register), information, and documents (such as an IP Strategy Document) that are relevant to an IP audit. These will be recorded in the Register of Documents in the IP Register.
- View demonstrations of the technology or products (both licensed software and Software as a Service or SaaS) to be audited
- Gather information relevant to the departments or projects to be audited
- Determine the documents to be reviewed and the people to be interviewed
- Draft and agree a written audit plan – this includes the:
- businesses, departments, or projects to be audited
- scope of the audit, in terms of documents to be reviewed and people to be interviewed
- schedule according to which the audit will be conducted
- responsibilities amongst the team
- Use a project management tool to manage the audit and implement the plan.
Prepare (Step 2)
- Review the documents gathered – these often include licensing and assignment agreements. Employment contracts and independent contractor agreements are often of particular importance and relevance
- Conduct background research – this often greatly increases the value obtained from the audit
- Prepare audit questionnaires (or checklists) to be presented both online and offline – they must be specifically customised for the type and size of organisation and the purpose and desired outcome of the IP audit. For an example of how the questionnaires will be presented online, please have a look at this self assessment.
Consult and interview (Step 3)
- Send out questionnaires to be answered online by the relevant people – this step might not always be appropriate – a personal and interactive consultations might be more effective
- Possibly develop new sets of questionnaires resulting from the answers provided to the initial questions
- Send out a second round of questionnaires to be answered online by the relevant people
- Consultations and interviews – individual consultations or interviews are held with the relevant people in person or remotely (For example, by using Skype). The purpose is to discuss the answers given by the person to the online questionnaire. By first doing the online questionnaire, the person has an opportunity to prepare and it means that we can cover more ground in the personal consultation or interview. Sometimes group sessions are required, although it is generally advisable not to have more than two people participating per interview.
- Digitally record the consultations, take notes, and collect support documentation. Use an Intangible Asset Grid and Intangible Asset Question Pool to facilitate consultations.
Investigate and analyse (Step 4)
- Examine active and archived files
- Locate relevant documents
- Gain access to documents stored on storage media
- Analyse the responses to the questionnaires
- Listen to the recordings of the consultations and process them and the notes
- Draft the IP Register, made up of the Register of Intangible Assets, the Register of Suggested Actions, the Register of Documents, the Register of Consultations, and the Register of Related Observations
- Propose any the remedial action to be taken and our recommendations in the form of the Register of Suggested Actions – the items should be ranked in order of priority
- The IP Register will:
- Describe and evaluate any defects in IP assets uncovered in the audit
- Identify shortfalls regards the IP
- Identify and highlight any risks related to IP
- Identify any rogue elements within the organisation
Report (Step 5)
- Draft a written report on the IP audit
- Present the results of the audit to the client