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How Patent Whitespace Analysis Can Set a Company Up for Sustainable Failure

I spent a few days last week at the Innovation Cubed Conference in Orlando.  While there, I heard two instances of use of a term that I absolutely hate, at least when it is used by innovation professionals to define in some manner the innovation processes of their respective organizations.   This word is:

PATENT WHITESPACE ANALYSIS

Not only do I hate this phrase, I think that companies that utilize patent (or IP) whitespace analysis to define their product and technology development pathways are quite possibly setting themselves up for failure.  And, it's bad enough that a single innovation project might fail as a result of the faulty data inputs that can occur from relying on whitespace assessments, but I think that most corporate processes incorporating patent whitespace analysis are based upon faulty methodology, thus setting the organization up for sustainable failure. For the uninitiated, when applied to the patent world,

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We’re Measuring the Wrong Things: Inventiveness and Patents Do Not Equal Innovation

Few things infuriate me more than supposed experts who make statements along the lines of "patents are critical to innovation."  I have avoided stating my views widely in this forum because I didn't want to get into a contest of one upmanship with my patent lawyer peers.  However, in the last couple of weeks, several pieces of information have hit my radar screen that make this seem like the right time to go public with my views. Let my position be very clear:  we create a false dichotomy when saying "innovation is not possible without patents."  The issue is much more complex and nuanced than this:  in a particular instance, patents may be critical to innovation, but they might also be only slightly important or--likely in the majority of situations--they might be wholly irrelevant to innovation.  (I talk more about this in this recent interview in Innovation Management

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Want to Know More about IP Strategy? A Selection of Posts for In-House and Outside Counsel

This week, I am speaking at the Midwest IP Institute.  I will be participating in a "fire side chat" with my good friend, Edna Vassilovski of Stoel, Rives LLP. Our session is entitled "How Patent Prosecutors and In-House Counsel Can Provide Work Product Better Aligned with Client's Business Needs."  Specific topics we will discuss include:

  • How clients’ views of IP and intangible assets are changing and ways both inside and outside counsel can stay relevant to clients today;
  • What you can do to help clients obtain meaningful patents at reduced cost;
  • How to really understand clients’ business goals and how to help make those happen; and
  • How to help clients monetize their patents
I am really looking forward to sharing my passion for IP business strategy with in-house lawyers and outside counsel, especially since I will be doing this with someone like Edna who I think

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Contrarian Viewpoint: Patents Likely Matter Little to US Innovation and Job Creation

Many experts insist that innovation cannot succeed without patents, and that the delays in the US Patent Office stifle innovation.  This viewpoint is like to become more widely believed by the public as US Patent Office Director Stephen Kappos sees a way to improve the dismal operations of the Patent Office by equating patents as job creation tools, which necessarily requires patents to be asserted as critical for innovation to occur. I believe it is highly misleading, and even harmful in many cases, to say that patents are the end-all be-all to innovation.  I also think that fixing the Patent Office--which will invariably mean that more people will see value in obtaining patents to support their business idea--should be viewed more as a job creation engine for patent attorneys and those who support them (including Patent Office employees), as opposed to creating jobs that can help improve the

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How the Northeastern Indiana Amish Serve as a Business Lesson about Patents

I have been spending time in Northeastern Indiana--the land of my roots--to introduce my children to their aunts, uncles and many, many cousins.  Catching up with extended family has made it difficult to formulate a post in the past couple of weeks, but I have a few moments this morning and wanted to capture a thought that has been rattling around in my head since I arrived here. Anyone who has spent time in this part of the U.S. will be familiar with the presence of the Amish as part of the cultural landscape.  My children, as city kids, are fascinated whenever they see a carriage with families traveling along the side of the roads.  However, I invariably consider about how stifling I would find it to not be able to interact with the outside world in the way that is familiar to me.  In short, I wonder what it

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Patent Information is a Necessary Calibration Tool: How the Pilgrims’ Journey is a Metaphor for the Innovation Process

Regular readers of this blog will recognize that I am a strong advocate of the use of patent information in the front end of innovation processes.  (More on this here, here and here.)  Relatively few innovation professionals actually do so, however, likely because it can be difficult for innovators to understand how to change the longstanding paradigm where lawyers are perceived to be the people who "put the 'no' in innovation."  Put simply, I find that innovation professionals prefer to leave anything smelling of legal advice out of the front end of their processes because they think they will not be able to do their jobs if the lawyers show up to their meetings. Of course, it makes little sense for innovation professionals to make significant business decisions involving new products or technology without also knowing whether they will be able to own the fruits of their innovations

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Innovation Professionals–Take Charge of Patents to Ensure ROI of Your Efforts (includes a case study)

Recently, I have been spending considerable time working with innovation professionals to demonstrate the value-creation opportunities available by embracing IP strategy as an aspect of their processes, and why patent drafting should be an aspect of their roles and responsibilities.  More specifically, my efforts have focused on why and how patents matter to the ROI of corporate innovation today.  Most business people would likely acknowledge that patents are important to protect their products from competition, however, the vast majority of the innovation professionals whom I meet have no idea how critical patent strategy can be to the success of their business plans. Modern innovation processes typically start with identification of a consumer need or the like.  In so doing, the innovation team undertakes detailed research to draw dimension around a product that will solve this consumer need.  This research will be directed toward identifying the multiple ways the consumer need can

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Checklists Could be the Key for Managers to Understand Whether Their Company’s Patents are Worth the Paper They’re Written On

My friend Mary Adams of the Smarter Companies blog posted a brief article about Atul Gawande's recent book The Checklist Manifesto. I agree with Mary that checklists can be a powerful way to improve the work product quality of experts, and wanted to expand on her discussion as they relate to intellectual property, in particular patents.  Also, I think that corporate managers who rely on the expertise of their company's patent lawyers can gain insights into the quality of their team's work product, even when they do not themselves seemingly hold the requisite skills to make such assessments just by starting a conversation about checklists. MY CHECKLIST STORY I read Dr. Gawande's original New Yorker article that formed the basis for the book at the same time I a good friend of mine--with whom I practiced law at a prestigious IP boutique--lost her corporate job in about December 2007. 

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The News is Out: We Now Have an Intangible Asset-Based Corporate Economy

(Ed. Note:  A family emergency has been keeping me away from the office.  The good news is that I have been catching up on my RSS feeds and reading some really interesting stuff, albeit a bit late.  One of these interesting reads is a David Brooks piece dealing with corporate intangible assets.  Since this was published Christmas week, others may have missed it, too.  And, when pundits pick up on what you have been talking about for years, I means that the public is finally "getting" it!) David Brooks’ Op-Ed in the December 22, 2009 New York Times raises some interesting points about our new intangible economy.  In this piece, entitled “The Protocol Economy,” Brooks recognizes that we have moved from an economy that makes “stuff” –that is, a physical goods economy—to one that deals in “protocols.”  (I think it would be more appropriate to call our evolving intangible

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A New Framework for IP Strategy Conversations: Ex Post vs. Ex Ante (from IP P®OSPE©TIVE)

(Editorial Note:  I have gotten some great feedback from my recent post 9 Out of 10 Patents are Worthless:  Here's Why and How to Keep it Happening from You (Part 1 of 4).  I am working on the next installment, so be on the look out for more of my thoughts on this meaningful topic.) Readers of the IP Asset Maximizer Blog will probably enjoy this very smart post from Ian McClure of IP P®OSPE©TIVE entitled "A New Legal Landscape for IP:  Ex Ante will Join Ex Post Services".  (While the post says some very flattering things about me, this is not why I am recommending it:  the IP P®OSPE©TIVE blog is consistently good, and Ian "gets" IP business issues.)  In this post, Ian frames IP Strategy in terms of "ex post" and "ex ante"--that is, instead of dealing with IP issues after it exists (i.e., ex

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