The Take Away: Those seeking to generate market-making patent coverage for new innovations must recognize that patent coverage should focus not on how the problem is solved but instead on the benefits provided to the customer. Most patent coverage is directed to a specific solution to a customer need that is characterized in the form of an invention. Patents that cover only one solution to a broad customer need will permit competitors to solve the same customer need with a non-infringing substitute product, thus leaving the patent holder with no legal recourse against their competitor. On the other hand, market-making patent coverage focuses on the benefits provided to the customer, which means that competitors cannot sell the same benefit. Accordingly, patent coverage that emphasizes benefits over features will make it more difficult for competitors to provide the same solution to the customer. Innovators must
Many business people are surprised to find out that all patents are not created equal. A recent study of Fortune 500 companies reported in Suzanne Harrison's Edison in the Boardroom Revisited indicates that only a very small number of patents--namely, 5%-- obtained by these top patent filers created strategic value for their owners. If only 5% of the most sophisticated companies, all of which have veritable armies of patent professionals on their teams, can get patent protection right, it must follow that less resource-rich companies have an even lower probability of gaining strategically valuable patent protection. This and the next few blog posts will aim to help improve the odds for business people seeking to learn how to generate more valuable patents. The first issue to clear up is what "strategic patenting" means. Those of us in the IP Strategy business define a "strategic patent"
As an IP Strategy advisor, I am often asked by the leadership of startup companies what the return on investment is from patenting. While I can confidently provide recommendations as an expert, my opinions are anecdotal based on my almost 20 years experience as an IP professional. Certainly, I have advised a number of startup companies over the years for which comprehensive patent coverage was critical to financial and market success. On the other hand, I have advised a much larger number of startup companies over the years where patenting made little difference to their fortunes. The subjective nature of IP advice holds for other patent professionals. Our respective years of experience results in tacit knowledge that becomes "expertise." This expertise guides clients to us for advice and allows them to trust in our counsel. Missing from my knowledge
While postings have not been frequent in 2013, I have nonetheless been very busy with my IP Strategy counseling and speaking engagements. In 2014, I will commit to being much more diligent in updating my blog with relevant content for those seeking to use IP and intangible asset strategy to create and maximize business value. In the meantime, here is the deck from IP Strategy Overview I presented at a conference of innovators at Georgia Tech's College of Architecture in October 2013. The summary is below the presentation. (To view the Slideshare presentation you view the full post in IP Asset Maximizer Blog.) This deck includes the basic overview of IP (patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets). However, this presentation goes beyond the usual lawyer-generated content to highlight not only the positive business aspects of IP, but also to give a reality check as to the likely ROI of investment in protection.
As a former IP law firm shareholder and senior corporate lawyer, I know all too well the expense required to start and maintain an IP law practice. Not only are IP lawyers of all levels of experience paid handsomely, but so are the highly skilled paralegals, docket clerks and administrative professionals traditionally required create the infrastructure needed to handle the myriad of details involved in an IP law practice. Of course, this expensive infrastructure must be sustaining, so while a lawyer serves today’s clients, her eye must also be on finding the next client because payroll and rent obligations don’t take a holiday when clients do. This "feed the beast" nature of the IP law practice model was a primary reason that I decided several years ago that I would not again work in the traditional practice of law. How could I? The standard legal service framework required me to build
I recently spoke to 2 different startup entrepreneurs who explained to me that each had “a brand that needed protecting.” To each, this meant that they intended to focus their sales and marketing efforts on customers who fit image they saw as befitting their respective products. While I was intrigued by the products and the amount of work each had done to date, I am afraid to say that if these entrepreneurs stay with their present mindset that only certain customers are desirable, each will fail. Full stop. For one of these entrepreneurs whose product had already launched, brand protection meant that he was trying to dissuade “undesirable” customers: apparently truck drivers LOVED his product and it was flying off the shelves at C-stores in which the test launch was conducted. This entrepreneur perceived these sales as a huge problem because he saw his product as high end and “above” the
A new client has asked for some information on how consideration patents and IP at the front end of the innovation/product development process can enhance business value. Readers of this blog might find this material informative, also. This is a published article from Innovation Management article entitled "How to Improve Innovation ROI with Early Stage Patent Expertise." In this article, I discuss how IP can help orient innovation teams in a direction that can enhance value capture. Practical steps to implement such a program into innovation processes is included in this article. Here is a YouTube video that explains my process simply. In short, including IP at the front end of a company's innovation process allows one to enhance their calibration with respect to the IP rights of others to better ensure that they will achieve the desired ROI on
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,
"Traction is the new IP." This emerging mantra results in many startup CEOs eschewing the traditional path of patent and other forms of IP protection. While I am aware of no rigorous studies conducted to date, anecdotal information indicates that startup entrepreneurs are increasingly saying no to patents, and likely to other forms of IP. Instead, these entrepreneurs first seek to validate their business models and then follow business plans focused on generating recurring revenue, often avoiding altogether the step of protecting their business idea or product with IP. From my own interactions with startup CEO's, I can confirm that the pendulum has swung very far to the "IP is worthless" side of things. But, is this emerging conventional wisdom actually correct? There is no doubt that over the years far too many startup company resources have been spent on patents and other forms of IP protection (many of
Many hold strong opinions on the value of patents to business. Both in person and online, there are any number of "experts" who stridently insist that without patent protection, a company's business goals are doomed. With about 350,000 new patent applications filed in 2012, there is no question that many agree that patents create, and are even critical to, business value. But, as the 2012 US presidential election cycle demonstrated, actual data can illuminate how expensive experts are often flat out wrong. So where's the "real data" that will allow business people to know whether a patent is the right decision for their company? This information is likely even more critical for startup entrepreneurs, most of whom have no choice but to rely on self-interested expert opinion regarding the value of patents to their business. Entrepreneurs who follow