It's that time of year again, when the nights draw in, autumn leaves start to fall and The Apprentice returns to our screens with another handful of hopeful entrepreneurs vying for investment.
Are investment and pitching really like The Apprentice however, and what can entrepreneurs do to make their pitch stand-out and attract capital?
Last week saw the Pitchfest Final at Birmingham Innovation Campus.
I was part of a panel at Pitchfest hearing from innovators and entrepreneurs from across the region as they pitched for investment and advice.
Birmingham is fast becoming an innovation hotspot and, as always, the wealth of entrepreneurial talent on display was impressive.
One thing that really can set a pitch apart is a good understanding of the value of the innovation that underscores a new business.
This is where intellectual property rights (IP) come in.
When starting a business there are many factors to consider, from branding and target markets to appointing suitable people.
Another key part of the jigsaw is IP protection.
Ensuring IP rights are in place early on helps define a clear business strategy and will prevent headaches further down the line.
Securing IP will also insure against competitors copying your idea while also ensuring you don't inadvertently infringe someone else's IP.
Developing a robust IP strategy does not need to be complicated.
Your ideas are the lifeblood of your new business so investing time and money in a strong IP strategy as early as possible is crucial.
Identifying which IP to protect can be a challenge.
Every business that uses a name, brand or logo however should be considering trade mark protection.
Trademarks are widely used to help protect the identities and values of countless products and companies in every conceivable sector of the economy.
Trademarks define a business in the public space, giving credibility to its brands, adding to the bottom line and embodying its reputation.
Thought will have to be given to what you want your trademark to say about your business and it can be made protectable and enforceable while carving out its own space within your sector.
Businesses developing products with unique designs should also be protected with registered design rights while, for those businesses developing innovative new products or processes, patent protection may be the route to go down.
For truly inventive products, where there may not be a great deal of prior art (pre-existing knowledge that might limit the scope of a patent in a more established industry), well-drafted patents could potentially allow for broad protection covering not only the patentee's business but also valid, relevant monopolies in ancillary, non-competing industries.
Each start-up will have its own unique IP.
Identifying and protecting that IP will lock in the value of what makes a business unique, create a barrier to entry for potential competitors while also giving investors something real to invest in, rather than just a good idea.
Birmingham-based David Ward is the managing partner of UK patents and trademarks at law firm Marks & Clerk