Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization, and value creation is measured by a company’s intellectual property portfolio. As a business leader, you are responsible for protecting your company’s IP portfolio through patents. What exactly is a patent? A patent is a legal document granted by the federal government that gives the patent owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, and importing the claimed invention. Essentially, it is the property right to the inventor. Virtually anything made by man can be patented, such as “a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement,” according to Fleit Gibbons Gutman Bongini & Bianco PL.
Why patent, you ask? To make profit from your invention! In order to succeed in business, you must protect and manage your innovation. Remember – the wolves are always at the door, just waiting to pounce on your ideas. Patents are part of an offensive and defensive strategy. Intellectual property law keeps your competitors from copying, using, selling or importing your idea. Patents protect your trademark against counterfeiting and unauthorized use.
If your organization has a portfolio of intellectual property, it is necessary to hire an IP attorney that will protect, enforce and handle valuation of your intellectual assets. It is time and money well spent, as IP attorneys manage patents as well as a comprehensive list of intellectual property concerns including trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, unfair competition, false advertising, computer law, technology licensing and related litigation.
To choose the right IP firm for your organization, look for an attorney who has experience in your product or service arena. Find out if they have a degree in engineering or expertise working in your industry. Does the law firm specialize in any particular business segment, such as entertainment, machinery or financial products? Do they work with small, midsized or large companies? These are all questions you should address when selecting the best fit IP firm.
Here are five key tips:
- Make sure you patent and protect surrounding inventions to eliminate alternatives to copy what you try to do or deliver. When you develop a technology you normally will come across additional options and surrounding IP, protect these as a defensive strategy
- Make sure you stay current with the changing Patent laws, including the possible upcoming change to “first to file” vs invent and having a year to file.
- According to Futurist David Houle we are entering the “IP age”. Make sure you are part of it
- Make IP as much a corporate governance issue at the Board level as any other strategic elements that is covered and watched over
- Make sure you cash in on your IP Portfolio
Here are some resources for information on patents:
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office www.uspto.gov
- Patents.com www.Patents.com
- Google Patents www.google.com/patents
- Patently Obvious: Chapter 6 in Robert’s Rules of Innovation
Remember, in high-stakes industries, your competitors are always looking for a way to get a leg-up. With increasingly advanced technology, it is easier than ever to unravel ideas and inventions through reverse engineering. The only way to truly protect your intellectual property is by patenting your IP portfolio. As they say, “the name of the game is the claim.” Without patenting, you will not share in the profits of your competitors. Be sure to educate your employees on the importance of protecting your company’s IP rights and create value for all the stakeholders.
Robert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival”, with Martin Kleinman – published Spring 2010 by Wiley (www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com).