Hey “Patent Experts”: How Do You Like Groupon’s Patent Now? *Crickets*

Yesterday’s announcement of the firing of Groupon’s CEO and the hope for a rebirth of the company’s business model brought to mind a post that I wrote a couple of years ago railing against the self-interested opinions of “patent experts” on why Google offered $6 Billion for Groupon in late 2010.  Re-reading the post in the rear-view mirror, it is more clear than ever that Google made the offer for the precise reason I set out below in December 2010: Google, and other acquirers, buy business models, not patents.  As we strategy-focused IP people have been saying for years, a patent is worthless unless it covers a viable business model–either yours or one you want to own.  Google is interested in Groupon because it offers them an established business model in an area that fits into their long term business strategy.  Are the patents nice to have? Of course, but if Groupon didn’t have the patents, Google would still want to own them, and likely for a price in the same neighborhood as it bid.  At the end of the day, the Google’s offer for Groupon was a “build vs. buy” decision:  Google ran the numbers and believed that it would make more money buying Groupon than by building something Continue Reading →

A Startup Company’s Experiences with Open Innovation-Part 2: Adventures of a Chief Frog Kisser

After many years of counseling small companies on how to license their technology to large companies as an IP attorney, the tables are now turned.  My new role is as CEO of a startup company with breakthrough battery charging technology available for licensing.  I am finding that many of the things I knew to be true as an expert, really aren’t true at all now that I am an entrepreneur.  This is the second post in what I hope will be an ongoing narrative that tells of my journey through the world of Open Innovation as we attempt to find one or more licensing partners for our company’s breakthrough battery fast charging technology.  (The first post is here.) One piece of advice that I knew even before embarking on this entrepreneurial journey that was absolutely not true was”build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”  As I have written about before, ideas themselves mean little when 90 % or more of the “better mousetraps” covered by patents are worthless.  So, I knew that our technology destined to become “shelfware” unless we did something to get our name out there.  An old friend with sales experience Continue Reading →

A Startup Company’s Experiences with Open Innovation-Part 1: Dealing with a Large Company Having Small Innovation Goals

For the past several months, I have been at the helm of Evgentech, a startup company with game-changing battery charging methodology.  Our technology was developed by young men who did not come from a traditional engineering background and, even then, their discovery was a serendipitous result of the co-founders’ recognition of a new principle stemming from investigations initially directed toward something wholly different from battery charging.  Put simply, Evgentech’s technology would not have been found if anyone–outsider or not–would have been looking for it.  We are now bringing to market the first truly new battery charging paradigm in over 100 years.  To put things in perspective, with Evgentech’s technology, you will be able to charge your batteries in a fraction of the time possible with existing battery charging methodologies, which means you can charge your iPhone to “full” in as little as 20 minutes, as compared to the about 3-5 hours it takes today.  Moreover, our technology is scalable to large format batteries, as well as a wide range of battery chemistries. Not surprisingly, when companies with footprints in battery power find out about us, they are interested in finding out more.  We have recently begun preliminary discussions with a number Continue Reading →

Success at Open Innovation Requires Finding the Right Partners: Here’s How to Improve Your Success Rates

With more companies building open innovation into their product development platforms, there would appear to be increasing opportunities for companies and independent IP owners to sell or license their technology.  In my many conversations with corporate innovation professionals, I find that that the desire to in-source externally developed products and technology may be strong, but few know how to go about finding and acquiring what their companies need.  As I have written about before, developing fruitful open innovation relationships is very much like dating:  you may want to do so, but unless you know where to show up, and how to initiate conversation, chances are you will remain single for a long time unless you engage a matchmaker. Well, I guess you could be your own “matchmaker” and search for potential partners.  This is easier today than it used to be because many corporations have idea submission portals and a few, like General Mills and Clorox, are even publicizing their detailed needs to the public.  This is a lot like finding your own mate, however.  You may show up someone all dolled up, but if your ideal mate isn’t also at the same place with the same message at the Continue Reading →

An Innovation Expert Sticks Up for IP Lawyers!

Regular readers of this blog know that I strongly believe that IP lawyers can do a whole lot more to better serve the needs of innovation teams.  Much of the disconnect between what IP lawyers do and those of their innovation clients can be traced to misalignment of incentives, as well as a structural and cultural impediments that makes it difficult for legal and business experts to communicate and work well together.  Last week, along with my good friend Deb Mills-Scofield and Mike Riegsecker of Menasha Packaging, I co-led a workshop on this topic at the 2nd Annual Open Innovation Summit.  The workshop was well-attended, and the response was very positive. Also, it appears that my message got through to at least one attendee, who is a prominent innovation consultant.  Keven McFarthing of Innovation Fixer wrote this post in which he asks open innovation professionals to not just look at their IP lawyer as an “extraneous irritant,” but instead as a member of the team.  Kevin also provides these recommendations: Ideally, make the lawyer a member of the formal team. If that can’t happen, treat them as if they are on the team. Don’t leave the final decision up to Continue Reading →

Success in Innovation Requires IP Counseling on the Front End: Here’s How to Make it Happen

The 2009 Open Innovation Summit was held in Orlando two weeks ago.  The event was attended by corporate practitioners of Open Innovation, including people from P&G, GSK Consumer, Cisco, Whirlpool, J&J, HP (here are Phil McKinney’s slides), Clorox, and many others.  Leading consultants in Open Innovation also attended, including Stefan Lindegaard of Leadership+ Innovation, Braden Kelley of Blogging Innovation and Robert Brands of Innovation Coach.  A number of vendors of services were there, too.  I thought this was a great knowledge share event, and a must do for folks wanting to learn more about Open Innovation.  Another Summit is planned for August 201o in Chicago. At the Summit, we spent much of the 3 days hearing how the attending companies, many of which include those in the Fortune 100, view Open Innovation as a critical aspect of sustainable growth and profits.  We also heard about successes and lessons learned.  Anyone interested in obtaining a sense of the discussion should check out the Twitter feed from the event.  A table of bloggers including Braden Kelley, Andrea Meyer, Hutch Carpenter, Adam Hansen and myself live blogged the event, which serves as a record of the event for posterity.  The Twitter feed is Continue Reading →

The Coming Explosion of the Patent Monetization Market: Brought to You by Open Innovation and What Needs to Happen in Order to Speed Up the Process

This week, I got a call out of the blue from a very senior business development person at a Fortune 10 technology company “wanting to know more” about patent licensing and monetization.  This was a bit strange:  his company has literally dozens of patent professionals on staff, files 100′s of patents a year and, as I found out, has 35 or so business people working on patent  licensing and monetization efforts for the organization.  So, why would he (let’s call him “Bob”) need to talk to me these topics?  Certainly, there is a veritable army of highly-paid smart people to answer IP and patent questions at his beck and call, and I was interested in finding out what Bob sought to find out from me that he could not get from his own people. I was not surprised to find out that Bob did not want to learn more about buying and selling technology on behalf of his company.  Rather, Bob’s interest was personal:  he wanted to find out more about patent licensing and monetization because he believes that patent marketplaces are the wave of the future and he wants to participate in what he sees as wide-open business opportunity.  He couldn’t talk about his Continue Reading →

Patent Attorneys Can Create Value-Added Services for Their Clients by Assisting with Open Innovation Efforts

As someone who assists corporations and entrepreneurs in monetizing their patents, I am continuously on the lookout for potential technology buyers. To this end, I subscribe to a number of services that provide “wish-lists” of technology that others are seeking to acquire. The most notable of these are Innocentive.com and Yet2.com. Recently, I have seen a number of technologies on each of these websites that are possibly relevant to patents that I have obtained for clients over the last several years. While this could be a coincidence, I also think it could be a signal that more companies are dipping their toes into the Open Innovation space, as opposed to relying solely on internally developed products or technologies. Patent attorneys seeking to improve the value they provide to clients would be well-served regularly reviewing the listings on these databases and spreading the word to their firm colleagues. Imagine the delight that clients would experience when their patent attorney brought them opportunity to make money on a technology that they no longer need, but have nonetheless spent considerable resources on over the years. A word of advice, however. If the technology solution was readily apparent, the company listing the need would Continue Reading →

Companies Adopting Open Innovation Methodologies Must Incorporate Patent Information for Maximum Value Creation

Open Innovation is unquestionably becoming a “hot” area of focus for U.S. companies, especially in the current economic climate in which businesses are more than ever focused on smarter ways of doing business. And, why wouldn’t Open Innovation be an intriguing business model when companies can fill their product and technology pipelines for significantly lower cost and with more variability of ideas than typically is possible from their own R&D infrastructures? As a result, more and more business leaders are today viewing Open Innovation as a necessary direction in which to move their company’s innovation efforts. A fundamental premise of Open Innovation is that good ideas can come from anywhere, even when a company operates in a very specialized core business. Moreover, innovations that come from outside of one’s core business, such as in packaging or transportation, are better left to those who specialize in those areas. Perhaps more controversial is the assertion that by relying only on the ideas generated from within, an organization’s core business innovations can become self-limiting because the pool of knowledge and idea generation may become somewhat myopic. When properly deployed, Open Innovation methodologies not only can be the source of ideas generated outside of Continue Reading →

How to Prevent IP Ownership Issues When A Corporate Strategic Alliance, Joint Venture or Open Innovation Project Fails

Technology-focused collaborations form a foundation of today’s corporate planning strategies. Such collaborations can be in the form of strategic alliances, joint ventures, open innovation or other legal structures. Regardless of how the participants characterize and legally structure such collaborations, the most common motivation for forming such alliances is to pool technology and R & D resources. When technology and R & D is involved, it must follow that IP ownership issues should loom large in the planning stage of the collaboration. However, my experience shows that the parties rarely give appropriate consideration to IP ownership in the agreements that are supposed to fully set out the rights and responsibilities of the parties. I can say with authority that IP issues are not usually given proper consideration in collaborative agreements because my expertise in this area results primarily from helping clients after their collaborations have failed. My clients typically sought my help after their collaborations went sour and they sought to exit the relationship with at least some valuable IP rights intact. In each of these situations, it was apparent that if my client had come to me for advice while they were executing the general business and financial parameters of Continue Reading →