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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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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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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

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2 Ways to Reduce Open Innovation Risk: Convert the Naysayers and Bring on the Seasoned Veterans

Open Innovation is risky.  It's like letting a stranger in your house to see what valuables are there for the taking, and letting them keep the key to your secrets even after you finish working with them.  For some, this perception of risk is enough to stop any attempts of Open Innovation in its tracks.  Other corporations respond to the risk by "lawyering up," which, at a minimum, markedly increases the costs of proceeding or, at worst, causes the relationship to break down before any collaboration can occur.  And I, as IP counsel to a number of corporations in my prior life, must admit to being responsible for shutting down Open Innovation due to my role as IP risk the person responsible for mitigating my clients' IP risk. After leaving the Friendly Confines of defined roles and responsibilities set out in my corporate and law firm life where it was clear

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IP Strategist on the Radio: 2 Recent Interviews

As my consulting practice becomes ever more busy, blogging must be relegated to times when client work is not pressing--that ever-elusive free time.  But now that Summer is here, free time has been hard to come by--it's hard to write when at the pool with the kids or driving to Grandma's house--but I haven't been totally giving up my outreach.  I recently participated in 2 radio interviews where I discussed the value of IP Strategy for entrepreneurs and inventors. Here I was on the 40 Year Old Business Virgin Radio Show with Dave Savage, Leader and President of The Inventors Association of Georgia and a person named Mohamed who has a really cool entrepreneurial story (sorry I didn't get his last name).  The hosts of the show, Kile Lewis and Ted Jenkin, are irreverent business advisors, and you should enjoy the show.  (I appear in the first half).

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Have a Pending US Patent Application? There’s Never Been a Better Time to Make a Deal with the Patent Office

The US Patent Office is in a deal-making mood.  Really.  Ever since Director Kappos told his examiners last Fall that "patent quality does not equal rejection," I have heard many stories about how patent applications that appeared to be stuck in the limbo 0f serial rejections are now being allowed.  Those of us who talk about such things online are in agreement that we may be operating in an unprecedented favorable environment of patent allowances.   The data bear out this anecdotal evidence:  patent issuances are up 35%  this year over last year. My sense of what is happening, which has been confirmed by other experienced patent folks to whom I have spoken, the perspective of the Patent Office has changed.  The consensus is the U.S. patenting process is much less adversarial today.  In recent years, examiners were effectively told by the Patent Office administration that "there needs to

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Much Ado About Patent Marking: Why It is So Hard for Corporations to Get It Right and Why False Marking Lawsuits Might be a Good Thing Overall

Misalignment between patent and business functions is the underlying cause of false patent markingIt is fairly rare for patents to make hit the radar screen of mainstream news outlets but, recently, there has been much space allotted to the issue of patent mis-marking and lawsuits being brought by third parties for "violation" of the law requiring that products cannot be marked with an incorrect patent number.  Indeed, the usually substance-free local paper in my mother's Southwest Florida community reported about the flood of patent mis-marking lawsuits.  And, it is no wonder that the undoubtedly arcane issue of patent marking has reached the status of "news" in a small-town paper given the huge number of cases currently pending in the federal courts.  It seems as if patent marking litigation may be the new business model for trial lawyers who are

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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.