Showing the Value of Intellectual Property to the Business
Jan-Willem Goedmakers is a speaker at the marcus evans IP Law Europe Summit 2017, taking place in Montreux, Switzerland, 18 - 20 June.
"It is better to tie intellectual property (IP) to innovation projects instead of individual ideas," recommends Jan-Willem Goedmakers, Head of IP, Stamicarbon. "Most often IP is driven by individual ideas but if those inventions are not aligned with the business strategy and lack buy-in, then you may be getting patents and protecting inventions but not protecting the innovation projects people are working on," he adds. www.iplawsummiteurope.com
What are the biggest challenges IP leaders are experiencing today?
To provide value for money. The IP department is often seen as an expense, so IP leaders must show they are careful with money, and every year be able to ideally do more with less or at least more with the same. That is important for the credibility of the department. It must also show it is aligned with the business, which is often a challenge as IP has a longer time horizon while businesses tend to change direction quickly. It requires a good understanding of business needs and for the head of IP to constantly communicate to the internal stakeholders what IP can do for the business, to ensure expectations are met.
What difficulties do they face in showing the value of IP?
Ideally, they should employ an innovation management system which directly links the IP docket system to the innovation projects. We have such a system which creates transparency by showing the connection between newly filed patents and trademarks and the innovation projects in the system. Instead of focusing on creating IP for individual ideas, this allows them to focus on innovation projects, which are managed by the technology or R&D departments. They should look at the best way to protect the innovation, which requires a holistic view of IP.
A particular innovation project might need part of its IP patented, while other elements could be trademarks, trade secrets or copyrights. When an employee comes to us with a great idea, we encourage them to create an innovation project from the idea. Once approved by the business and resources are allocated, we prepare the IP strategy and protect it to the extent possible. Our business is quite long-term, so this approach works well.
What issues does this approach prevent?
Many inventions are made by people who just like to invent and have their names on patents, but there is not necessarily a direct interest from the business to follow up with these ideas. Our approach helps us save money. In R&D departments you might see creative people who keep coming up with interesting ideas, but those ideas are not followed-up and there is no buy-in from the organisation to commercialise them into products. Large organisations can set up a department to try to monetise such patents but smaller companies cannot afford it. It is always a balancing act. How do you make use of the creativity of your people and keep them motivated, but at the same time ensure they are working on the right things? We have found that by encouraging inventors to present their ideas as innovation projects we create more excitement from the business and ensure buy-in from all stakeholders.
How do external collaborations increase efficiency? How can collaboration be optimised?
First consider what you are good at, what you need to keep in-house and what an outside partner can do better. We have made the conscious decision to outsource our patent drafting and prosecution to one firm. We have enough critical mass to be an important client for outside counsel if we centralise with one firm. As a medium-sized company with about 100 patent families and 1,000 individual patents, doing the administrative work and managing the portfolio in-house would reduce our flexibility and it would cost too much. To ensure outside counsel can work efficiently, we spent time to implement the right work processes and standard instructions to ensure both parties do their part in the partnership. We continuously optimise work processes to ensure we improve year-on-year. When reporting to top management, that shows we are becoming more efficient.
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