Large enterprises face some unique advantages not shared by small and medium-sized enterprises. While they have the resources to hire people and develop or purchase software to focus solely on the innovation capture process, they also have unique challenges when setting up their invention capture systems. A large enterprise tends to be decentralized in geography and diverse in product offerings. Getting all of the innovators and project managers on the same page can take time and effort.
Here are some ideas for an innovation capture program for large enterprises:
Leadership comes from the top
An innovation capture program requires resources and buy-in at the executive level. Convincing your leadership of the benefits of IP ownership will smooth-out the budgeting process and create a corporate culture that values IP.
Many industries are indifferent or even hostile to IP. For example, some software companies openly disdain IP protection for their products in favor of open source and ceding their innovation to the public domain. But IP is critical to investors, acquirers and lenders while hedging against competitor patent infringement suits. As a result, executives must understand the value of IP to the enterprise even if they have personal objections to IP.
Some of the benefits to convince your executives of the value of an innovation capture program include:
- IP helps distinguish your goods and services in the marketplace
- IP assets increase the company’s value
- Investors reward innovation with an increased stock price
- A defensive patent portfolio discourages competitor lawsuit
Just as important as the resources to build the program is leadership on the issue of IP. Innovators will follow executives, and taking a united approach to IP capture is necessary as your business expands across the country or the world.
Implement a capture process, not an ad hoc approach
When many enterprises first implement an innovation capture process, they rely on spreadsheets or other ad hoc processes to organize information. Moreover, they use voluntary information disclosure forms that innovators often ignore. To increase engagement from innovators, the first step would be to have a simple innovation capture form. Having innovation disclosures tied with inventor bonus programs further inspires innovators.
But to truly mine your innovators’ efforts, you need a process designed to tap into your development process and identify those innovations that require IP protection. A properly designed process will help innovators bring patentable inventions to the attention of your leadership team effortlessly. It will also help your business ensure that significant and valuable inventions don’t fall into the public domain.
Some ideas for implementing a capture process include:
Get advice from a patent expert
Patent attorneys and agents (AKA “patent prosecutors”) understand how to take an inventive concept and turn it into a patented invention. They can guide the development of your innovation capture program by showing you the information that will help them do their job of analyzing the patentability of the inventions and protecting them. Patent prosecutors can also provide the legal framework for the type of innovations you need to capture and the timing of the patent filings.
Specifically, a patent attorney can provide information about:
- Patent-eligible subject matter
- Legal requirements for patentability
- Filing deadlines and events that can bar patenting
- Competitive intelligence on your competitors’ patent filings
- Costs of filing
- Likelihood of success
- Time to obtain patent protection
You should keep in mind that the legal framework for obtaining patents won’t be your sole consideration in developing an innovation capture program. You’ll also have to consider factors like your enterprise’s culture, the marketplace for your products and services and your industry’s competitive landscape.
Make a personal connection with the innovators
To maximize the quality and quantity of invention submissions, you should increase your innovators’ engagement with your innovation capture system. A liaison between your innovators and your capture process can increase engagement in ways that periodic emails or reminders from a software program cannot. Specifically, a liaison can:
- Act proactively to identify when innovations are ready for disclosure
- Prompt the conversation with innovators at key points in the development process
- Explain the need to engage with the IP capture process
- Reduce the burden of invention disclosure forms on busy innovators
- Make innovation capture part of the development process by hanging around with innovators
One of the benefits of large enterprises is the resources you have at your disposal. While small to medium-sized enterprises often can’t afford a staff member dedicated to innovation capture, this patent prosecutor or paralegal can ensure that your enterprise is maximizing the disclosures it receives. This return on investment should more than justify the cost.
Integrate your process so innovators think about IP
A critical step in building a successful innovation capture system is to push your development teams to think about IP as just another part of to the development process. If preparing invention disclosures becomes part of the development process, innovators will engage with your capture system on every project rather than only those projects that they remember or are prompted to engage.
Some ways to integrate the innovation capture into development include:
- Start early by asking innovators to identify potential IP when each project is submitted for approval
- Conduct multiple periodic IP reviews during development
- Add IP reviews into budget requests or project approvals
- Mandate an IP review prior to approving a final design
- Include IP reviews prior to product releases or upgrades
You’ll know that your innovation capture system is successfully integrated when innovators naturally engage with your process. This will make your system more efficient and ensure that innovations don’t inadvertently fall into the public domain.
Support your innovators
Ultimately, the success of your innovation capture process relies on your innovators. You should do everything possible to support your innovators so they want to engage in disclosing and protecting innovations. Some ways that your enterprise can support innovators in the IP process include:
- Don’t overwhelm busy innovators with an overly burdensome capture process
- Provide in how to engage with the innovation capture process
- Explain the importance of capturing and protecting innovations
- Make your liaison to the innovation capture process readily available to answer questions or assist innovators
- Create an IP-related legal terms and your IP process on a company intranet
- Adjust your process as you receive feedback from innovators
If innovators feel supported throughout the innovation capture process, you’ll break down a barrier to their participation in the process.
Track innovation through the patent process
Although disclosure forms are often a friction point in capturing innovations, your job is not complete until those innovations have been protected or you have decided not to pursue protection. If you lose track of disclosures or neglect to act on them, you’ve wasted your innovators’ time and energy in engaging with your innovation disclosure system.
Some ways to ensure you enterprise follows through on invention disclosures include:
- Establish a routine that reviews invention disclosures on a regular basis
- Form a patent committee responsible for ensuring all disclosures are considered
- Use IP management software to track each disclosure from capturing to patenting
- Develop an internal process to move quickly and efficiently through various stages of the IP workflow:
- Innovation capture form
- Internal vetting through a patent committee
- Coordination of the patent drafting
- Filing of patent
- Portfolio management after filed
- Use an IP management tool that can provide status
Managing patent ideas can be challenging in large enterprises. Your innovators might have hundreds or even thousands of innovations under development at the same time. But large enterprises have the benefit of being able to scale their innovation capture process to handle their invention disclosures. Preventing the capture process from bogging down will ensure that your innovators’ efforts result in patent assets for the enterprise.
Invest in your innovation capture process
A large enterprise has many challenges when capturing and protecting innovation. You will need to design and implement a process that can handle hundreds or even thousands of disclosures every year, and this system must work tirelessly to track, review and protect inventions quickly and efficiently to avoid losing valuable innovation to the public domain.
Make IP a part of your enterprise’s DNA by designing an engaging workflow for your innovators to make the most of your IP budget. The processes need to be accompanied with the right tools to maximize the returns. Look for these 12 essential features while selecting a patent management tool.