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If You Have to Ask Your Patent Attorney What Your Company’s Patent Strategy Is, You Don’t Have One

Tonight I had dinner with a patent attorney friend of mine who I have known for more than 10 years. For the purposes of this post, let's call her "Sue." Sue and I met as young patent attorneys at an intellectual property law firm and grew up together to become partners there. Unlike myself, however, Sue has remained in the law firm environment. These days, she works at a highly prestigious national law firm and has a billable rate of close to $600 an hour. Of course, at this rate, Sue's clients expect to obtain quality representation and, having been a client of hers when I was an in-house corporate attorney, I know that my friend is a great patent attorney and gives excellent service. As an IP Business Strategist and Consultant, I am no longer engaged on a daily basis in working with clients to obtain patents. In this IP

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Corporate Managers: Are You Failing to Obtain Maximum Value from Your Energy Savings and Green Innovations by Ignoring Patent Issues?

In this world of ever rising energy costs, your company likely has one or more teams of people working to reduce energy consumption and improve the efficiency of your company's processes. Your company is also probably working diligently on ways to make your operations more "green." For example, if your company exhibits a large carbon footprint in its manufacturing processes, someone in your organization is likely thinking about ways to reduce your carbon emissions in advance of the possible adoption of government-mandated carbon cap and trade system directed to fight global climate change. However, because the external forces of energy costs and possible governmental regulation are driving these and green innovations inside your company, it is quite likely that these efforts are occurring outside of normal R&D channels. That is, your company's Manufacturing, Operations and Logistics personnel are likely responsible for developing and testing these potential new innovations, and for

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Recent Worldwide Conference of Thought-Leaders Demonstrates the Criticality of IP Strategy as a Business Issue

As I have been writing about for the past several months on this blog, business and investment professionals should consider intellectual property ("IP") to be a critical matter for business, not just lawyers. The correctness of this concept was validated by the occurrence of a recent conference attended by worldwide thought-leaders in IP. This first annual Business IP Congress(tm) occurred in June 2008 in Amsterdam.

From the final program contents, it appears that the 2 day conference consisted in large part of an examination of what the role of a Chief Intellectual Property Officer ("CIPO") is and should be in today's global IP-centric business environment. The overall context of a thought-leader led discussion of what a CIPO is and should be confirms the emerging modern view that IP is a matter for the C-level business operations of an organization, and should not be relegated

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Why Western Companies Need Not "Dread" the Sucessful Monetization of Intellectual Property by Indian Firms

indian businessIn his Harvard Business School blog posting entitled "How Indian Firms Convert Intellectual Property into Intellectual Profit," Navi Rajou of Forrester Research contrasts the intellectual property ("IP") activities of Indian corporate strategists with those of their Western counterparts. In this post, Mr. Rajou identifies several aspects of Indian corporate strategy that allow Indian firms to effectively monetize their IP. Mr. Rajou's examples of the successful IP strategy-related activities of Indian firms can be summarized as follows:

  • Tata Motors, which is introducing a $2500 car in India this year, has obtained 40 patents. However, Tata's CEO recognizes that these patents are worthless unless the company also makes money from these inventions. Tata's innovation metrics therefore also include "time to value" and "time to volume".
  • Some Indian firms do not even bother filing for patents on new inventions because doing so

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Beware of Those Who Would Sell You Worthless Patent Landscapes

If you are an innovation professional or an investor in new technology, you certainly appreciate that it is important to investigate and analyze the so-called "patent landscape" prior to moving forward with your business plans. As shown by examples such as the $600 plus million settlement of the BlackBerry(tm) lawsuit in 2006 and the $431 million liability court finding that Boston Scientific infringed the patent of a New Jersey doctor, the execution of innovation and technology-based business strategies can be significantly derailed by the pre-existing patent rights of others. In view of these examples (as well as many others), you should not embark on any innovation or technology investment prior to developing a valid point of view on how patents will affect your investment payback. However, in talking to clients of my IP business strategy consulting company, I know that there is no uniform understanding of exactly what a

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Using IP Strategy to Reduce the Strategic Uncertainty of Business Decisions

In my wanderings through the Internet, I recently came across a new-to-me management concept. This concept, which generally addresses the management of the risk of strategic decisions, directs C-level corporate decision-makers to embrace as a primary responsibility the management of uncertainty in order to enable the long-term success of their companies. The concept, developed by Michael Raynor of Deloitte Research, is briefly discussed in this article entitled "What is Corporate Strategy, Really" (available here: http://www.iveybusinessjournal.com/article.asp?intArticle_id=722) and in more detail in a book entitled The Strategy Paradox (more info here: http://www.amazon.com/Strategy-Paradox-committing-success-failure/dp/0385516223 ). In the article, Mr. Raynor effectively asserts that traditional models of corporate strategy are flawed because they are inherently based on a supposed understanding of future events. Instead of embracing the fallacy that they are able to predict the future, business leaders should acknowledge and accept that a significant aspect of corporate decision making is based upon planning

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Obtaining Broad Patent Rights Is Just the Beginning of a Patent Strategy: Beware of Those Who Would Block Your Right to Practice

As reported in a recent New York Times article, an inventor has developed remarkable innovations in fluid dynamics, which is the way fluids (that is, air and liquids) travel in a system. If widely adopted, these innovations are expected to provide revolutionary improvements in several industrial processes. To quickly summarize this technology, the inventor, Jay Harman, has used a technique called “biomimicry” to adopt (actually co-opt) a fundamental feature of the way fluids travel in nature which, when applied to one or more of the aircraft, air-conditioning, boating, pump and wind turbine industries, could allow these processes to be conducted to much more efficiently, and with less energy consumption. Notwithstanding the marked improvements seen with Mr. Harman’s technology, industry has not been enthusiastic in adopting it for use. The New York Times article is focused on the reality that innovations are often rejected by industry if they represent too large

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Only You Can Prevent Patent Expertise Creep: Recognizing the Proper Role of Your Patent Attorneys

Your company has a question about your company's patent portfolio. This is an issue for your company's in-house or outside patent counsel, right? Maybe not. If the question relates to whether an invention is patentable and whether the patent is likely to grant, a patent attorney is the correct person to contact. But if the question is whether you should obtain a patent on a patentable invention, your company's patent counsel is quite probably not the correct source of counsel. The latter is a question of patent strategy, which is inherently a business question, not a legal question. However, many businesses assume that when a patent issue comes up, a patent attorney should be contacted because a patent attorney knows about patents. So why are patent attorneys typically not suited to address patent business questions? As many people know, useful, novel and unobvious inventions are patentable. Significantly, however, there is no

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Can Patent Strategy Be A Key To Help Preserving the Small and Mid-Sized U.S. Manufacturing Base?

On a recent business road trip up the Interstate 85 corridor between Atlanta and Charlotte, I was stricken by the large number of empty small and mid-sized manufacturing facilities lining the expressway. On the drive north to Charlotte, we passed a dozen or more large, but abandoned, industrial buildings with empty parking lots and "Available" real estate signs visible from the road. In a significant manner, these empty facilities demonstrate the debilitating effects of globalization on the formerly vibrant small and mid-sized manufacturing base that previously dotted the landscape of the U.S. After establishing the markets and building the customers for, as some examples, specialty plastics, packaging materials or electronics, these companies lost the "race to the bottom" on price against low cost foreign manufacturers and, as a result, went out of business. When these companies closed their doors, well-paying jobs, the owners' assets and the local tax base were

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: Patent Strategy as a Business Model

In the May 12, 2008 New Yorker Magazine article, Malcolm Gladwell posits that there is no shortage of ideas. Rather, he indicates that what is needed is disciplined processes centering on invention and execution of those ideas through into the marketplace. Mr. Gladwell's article (which I believe is a must-read for those of us in the "innovation game"), goes about proving his hypothesis by reporting on the inventive processes of the principals of Intellectual Ventures. (Intellectual Ventures website is linked here: http://www.intellectualventures.com/).Intellectual Ventures is a new type of company. Its premise is that highly skilled scientists, engineers and other types of "big thinkers" can learn enough about a technical or human problem, such as a common medical condition, to invent possible solutions when in a "brainstorming session" with other high level thinkers of varying disciplines. Intellectual Ventures then files patent applications for the most promising of those solutions,