Most technology companies take a haphazard approach to protecting their vital intellectual property (IP) assets. They have no system to identify innovative ideas, prioritize which ideas are the most valuable, and build a strong IP portfolio filled with strategic inventions.
Inventions are critical for technology companies to maintain a competitive advantage. New competitors can “come out of nowhere” with a product that steals market share from well-established companies. Without a strong IP portfolio, your company is at risk of lost revenue – or worse – due to these competing products.
Thus, your company needs a system for identifying, evaluating, and protecting important inventions and other IP.
Keep away from the haphazard approach to protecting your IP.
This approach is guaranteed to fail.
IP strategies are not taught in college or high school, so most people never learn these skills.
Here’s how most tech companies fail to begin identifying and protecting their valuable IP assets, and how you can avoid doing the same:
The lack of guidance or knowledge about IP causes most companies to either ignore the subject or randomly prepare a couple patent applications without determining whether they actually benefit the company.
The unfortunate result is a weak IP portfolio with patent applications that do not provide significant value to the organization.
Building a strong IP portfolio requires regular monitoring activities to be certain you are identifying and protecting important inventions. The company’s IP system must be monitored and adjusted periodically just like any other important business activity.
So, how can you start to integrate these assessments into your business?
The first step is to assess your current IP situation.
You can’t map out a plan to strengthen an IP portfolio if you don’t know your starting point! An initial assessment is critical to find “holes” in your IP system and develop a plan to fill those holes.
Subsequent assessments can help you update the IP plan and take further steps to continue growing a strong IP portfolio.
Never assessed your company’s current IP situation? You’re not alone.
Several years ago, I worked with Sarah, a new product development manager at a communication company. Sarah was responsible for managing the development of new products and the enhancement of existing products. Since Sarah had a background in protecting inventions, the first thing she did in her new job was to look at the company’s existing IP.
Sarah was shocked to discover that the company had no pending patent applications and had no system for identifying inventions in the organization. She knew this was a major problem and was worried about competitors legally stealing her new employer’s inventions because those inventions were not protected.
Sarah quickly realized that the company had effectively donated its core inventions to all competitors!
Since Sarah and I had worked together previously, she reached out to me for a full assessment of the company’s current IP situation. I interviewed developers, managers, and executives in the company to identify how they identified and managed IP throughout the organization.
I was surprised to discover that most people in the organization didn’t know anything at all about IP.
“IP is not a priority” was a common response.
My assessment exposed the fact that no one was paying attention to the company’s IP.
“I can’t believe this!” was Sarah’s response to my assessment.
Immediately, we started implementing systems to fill the massive holes in the current IP system.
We created a plan to identify innovative ideas going forward and build a strong IP portfolio by protecting those ideas. This plan was communicated throughout the company and became a priority for all groups within the organization.
The new plan worked perfectly.
Soon, the company was enjoying a steady flow of new inventions from its team members and had a system to evaluate those inventions. Rather than ignoring these important inventions, the company was now taking action to protect the assets.
Too many technology companies ignore their IP and fail to perform any type of assessment.
If you’re ignoring the IP in your business, you may in fact be giving away your best inventions to competitors.
You are leaving the door wide open for any number of competing companies to freely copy your innovative ideas – and all because you failed to properly assess and manage your organization’s IP.
Some technology companies mistakenly believe they are protecting the company’s IP by merely filing one or two mediocre patent applications – but little thought is given to the particular inventions being protected and the idea of building an IP portfolio is not considered.
Sadly, most companies don’t discover this mistake until it’s too late.
For an IP portfolio to be valuable, you must build it on a solid foundation. Just like following a blueprint when building a house, you create a strong IP portfolio by using a proven system that ensures you are identifying and protecting the most valuable inventions.
A strong and secure IP portfolio includes a diverse group of patents covering different types of inventions. To provide maximum value to the company, it is important to protect four key categories of IP:
I recently worked with a software company that was worried about a new company launching a competing product. The company leaders knew they had “some” IP protection, but wanted to know if their existing patents could prevent sales of the competing product.
I was asked to review their existing IP and provide guidance regarding the competitor’s product.
Unfortunately, the company’s patents did not cover the competing product. They only covered insignificant aspects of their own product, which had not been implemented by the competitor.
The most valuable features of the software company’s flagship product were not protected.
And, because the product was released over two years before our initial meetings, it was too late to patent many of the product’s inventions.
After I helped this company understand the importance of a strong IP portfolio, we initiated systems to identify and evaluate all new inventions from that point forward. We also performed “invention mining” by analyzing all of the company’s existing products to identify important inventions that were still eligible for patent protection.
In less than two weeks, we identified several critical inventions that distinguished the company’s products in the marketplace and were within the window to file a patent application.
The patent applications for those inventions were filed quickly, which strengthened the company’s IP portfolio.
I also worked with the company to map out a plan to diversify the IP portfolio, which included conducting brainstorming sessions and innovation contests to identify future innovations based on current trends. The plan also identified defensive inventions that protect the company from overly aggressive competitors.
Today, the company is benefitting from a growing IP portfolio that protects its critical inventions and will help block future competitors that attempt to copy those inventions.
Best of all, the company leaders have peace of mind knowing that the most important inventions are secure.
The reason many technology companies fail to build strong and secure IP portfolios is they have never been taught a system to accomplish this. Without a strong IP portfolio, companies just like yours are less competitive – their most important inventions are freely available to competitors.
Every member of an organization has creative ideas and can contribute to the generation of innovative ideas. Too often, companies limit their creative activities to the technical members of the team, such as engineers, scientists, and developers.
That’s a huge mistake!
Each team member has unique talents, experiences, and ideas. People from different parts of the company – and with different job functions – have varying perspectives of the company’s activities. For example, the customer service team sees the daily problems faced by customers, which may not be communicated to the engineering team.
Limiting a company’s innovation activities to a small group of people results in a failure to identify valuable inventions.
Smart companies harness the power of their entire team by developing an innovation culture that produces valuable ideas while fostering a team environment. These companies encourage everyone to be part of an “innovation team” and submit their innovative ideas for consideration.
I recently started working with a company in the highly competitive data networking equipment industry.
The company was struggling because they were losing customers to competing companies that were developing new “must have” features.
When the data networking company first launched, it grew quickly because of new inventions that provided a competitive advantage. But, several years later, competitors had improved their products with new inventions while my client had failed to innovate.
The original inventions were created by the founders, who launched the company. As the company grew, the founders took on company leadership roles and moved away from the innovation activities.
My client knew they needed to do something to stimulate new inventions to give their products a boost in the marketplace. When I started working with the company, I stressed the importance of treating all employees as an “innovation team” and harnessing the power of that team.
We implemented an invention rewards program and an innovation contest to encourage innovative thinking throughout the company. Within a few weeks of launching these programs, they started seeing a steady flow of new ideas from all departments.
Instead of relying on just the founders or the engineering group, the diversity of ideas coming from different parts of the organization produced several new product features that let the company regain their competitive advantage.
Don’t make the same mistake of limiting your innovative activities to a small group of people in your organization!
Realize that every team member has a unique perspective and sees different types of business activities. Embrace these differences and encourage innovative thinking throughout your organization.
You will profit from the steady stream of innovative thinking.
Your technology company must identify and protect its valuable intellectual property.
All technology companies can implement similar systems to those discussed above, to build an IP portfolio that actively protects critical inventions and other IP. This is particularly important for technology companies because these inventions provide a competitive advantage and support continued growth of the organization.
Failing to build a strong IP portfolio with the help of your entire team can impede business growth and allow competitors to steal your market share.
As an experienced IP Attorney, I can help.
For more than 20 years, I have helped technology companies of all sizes create strong and secure IP portfolios that provide a competitive advantage and protect their most valuable assets from being stolen. I can help you assess your current IP situation and identify the most important steps to fill the current gaps and define a plan to consistently identify and protect your valuable inventions and other IP.
If you want help building a strong IP portfolio for your business, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org