5 Ways To Improve The Quality Of Invention Disclosures

Getting good quality invention disclosures is a challenge if your inventors don’t engage with the innovation capture process. As an innovation manager, you need to fill the innovation funnel with potentially patentable ideas. So, what do you do?

Let’s explore what makes a good quality invention disclosure and how you can get enough of those! 

Good Quality Invention Disclosure:

A good quality invention disclosure captures the novelty, advantages, and utility of the invention. It has to be explained well enough such that those who approve patent filings can understand the invention and how it is strategic to the enterprise. To put it simply, an ideal invention disclosure clearly and precisely describes:

  • The problem that the idea solves
  • How the idea solves the problem
  • How the invention operates
  • The enhanced features in comparison to existing alternatives

How to Make Sure You Get Quality Invention Disclosures?

Here are five ways to improve the quality of the invention disclosures at your organization:

  1. Inventor-focused education 
  2. Walk it through – contextualization 
  3. Timely assistance
  4. Example invention disclosures
  5. Two-way communication between the inventor(s) and innovation manager

#1. Training And Education

It takes training to obtain good quality invention disclosures. Education should be inventor-focused. Explain the patent program and the invention disclosure form to your inventors. Provide insight into how the patent process works. Such an exercise increases engagement. 

Conduct the training at regular intervals including at new employee orientation to keep everyone updated with the patent policy of the organization. Create guidelines for filling the invention disclosure form to demystify what is needed.

A good quality invention disclosure requires a summary of the invention while highlighting its unique features. Also, encourage the inventors to attach detailed documents and drawings to provide an excellent description. Graphic representation leads to better understanding. It should quickly identify the problem, solution, and enhanced features compared to the conventional solutions. The inventors need to explain how the invention works and the value of pursuing a patent.

#2. Walk It Through

Contextualization is key. Apart from training and educating the inventors on filling the invention disclosure forms, you need to explain why it is essential. The inventors need to understand that the invention disclosure is part of a larger process crucial to the success of the enterprise.

Good quality invention disclosures help to:

  • Explain the new innovation
  • Simplify the evaluation process of patentability of the invention
  • Emphasize the chances at successful commercialization
  • Speed up the process by including all essential information

When the inventors understand the motivation behind good quality disclosures, they will be keener to write them better.  The better the innovation disclosure, the more likely that their idea is approved for patenting.

#3. Timely Assistance

Ensuring quick assistance when there is any confusion will speed capture by innovators. Often the inventors struggle with completing invention disclosures as they are not used to framing their contribution in the way. Make sure the inventors know where to seek help when they need it. Your organization can either appoint in-house personnel or outsource the task to IP professionals such as the patent attorney who drafts your patents. Establishing a good working relationship between the inventor and patent attorney will give the inventors insight into the essentials requirements for the invention capture.

#4. Examples

Provide the inventors and R&D staff with sample invention disclosures, where patents have been obtained successfully. If the corresponding product  is well known in the enterprise, that always helps.  Keep the invention disclosure form brief and straightforward, capturing only the necessary information. Allow them to include detailed documentation for the invention and drawings separately. At Triangle IP, we have created a simple, engaging, and customizable invention disclosure form (IDF), which is downloadable in both excel and word formats. Long and complex IDFs often discourage the inventors from filing invention disclosures. A well-written sample invention disclosure can be the yardstick for future disclosures to ensure high quality. 

#5. Two Way Communication

Try to understand the reasons behind low-quality invention disclosures in your enterprise. Address the issues of the inventors to tailor the process to how they are accustomed to doing things. Keep the channel of communication open between inventors and innovation managers with transparency in the process. It allows them to understand each other’s perspectives and how innovation progresses through the process. There has to be clarity about the expectations from the inventors with visibility as their ideas mature into patents. The innovation managers should also be aware of the enablers and blockers of invention disclosure to capture more innovation. The invention disclosure process has to be two-way communication.

Takeaway:

The better the invention disclosure, the easier it is for the innovation manager to push it through to a patent. The more information you can get into the process, the easier it is to evaluate and draft the patent application. The quality of the input data determines the quality of the output.

A good quality invention disclosure should:

  • Provide a solid background and characteristics of the invention 
  • Contain proper technical description, which is the heart of invention disclosure
  • Explain the key terms and jargon
  • Include a list of any known relevant prior art and how the invention is different
  • Be reviewer-friendly so the value to the enterprise is clear
  • Include diagrams or other pre-existing documentation

Find out ways to encourage more invention disclosures in the organization. Don’t miss out on patent protection due to a lack of invention disclosures or poorly filled disclosures.

Note: The preceding is general business advice and not to be construed as legal advice. IP laws vary by country and retaining licensed legal counsel is advised to confirm this information. Any expressed or implied opinions are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Triangle IP or any other entity who might be associated with the presenter. We hope this content is helpful to you, but should not be relied upon without confirming the advice and accuracy with local legal counsel. Any comments or inquiries are not confidential so please discuss your issues directly with counsel.

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

The other day I was speaking to a portfolio manager at a large enterprise.  He was given a task to enhance the patent portfolio for the company. My first question to him was about the process of capturing ideas from inventors.

Me: “How do you capture the ideas and collaborate over the ideas to transform them into valuable IP?”

He: “We conduct certain brainstorming sessions, capture ideas in excel sheets and pursue as and when we feel a need for the same.”

In my experience of working for over 20 years with so many enterprises, the scenario is pretty much the same. Most enterprises use excel sheets, emails, docketing softwares (that’s like giving a factory when all that’s needed is a simple machine), or some other make-do softwares to capture ideas.

You Might Wonder What’s Wrong With Using Such Tools?

Well, in the absence of easy capturing and thorough vetting, a lot of things may happen which hurt the value of a patent portfolio.

  • Great ideas get lost while traveling amongst various stakeholders.
  • Weak ideas get pursued for filing a patent resulting in either a rejected patent or a low-value patent.
  • Filed/Granted patents are sometimes great in terms of innovation but do not have a market demand as the business team did not collaborate while persuasion.
  • Effort gets wasted on an idea which the company has already filed a patent on in the past by some other inventor.
  • Sometimes inventors get so busy with the progress of the invention that the idea gets completely missed out of the patenting process. Even worse, the product reaches the market without IP protection. And, competitors take full advantage of it.

Hence what’s needed is a defined process to capture ideas. A way to collaborate over ideas to conduct thorough internal vetting. A place where all the stakeholders from different arenas of a business and research can contribute. Thus making sure that only the finest ideas are pursued for filing patents. 

Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio Proactively

Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio Proactively

Besides this, a strong culture of innovation at the workplace and a time-to-time audit of the portfolio shall also be beneficial towards a valuable patent portfolio.

Here are 6 quick pointers that can help you strengthen your patent portfolio:

1./Effective Innovation Capturing

2. Thorough Vetting

3. Curating An Innovation Driven Culture

4. Getting Patent Experts Onboard

5. Pruning To Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

6. Expediting Patenting Process

#1 Effective Innovation Capturing

It all starts with an idea. So, the inventor comes up with an idea. Maybe he shares the idea with you, maybe he does not. Maybe you review or maybe it gets slipped as you were too busy. And the inventor gets busy working on that idea totally forgetting about the protection it might need. Whether patent or trade secret or defensive publication. 

Now the product that gets created based on the inventor’s idea is revolutionary. And it reaches the public domain without any IP protection. It’s under the threat of fast followers. Companies out there who have resources and capital are always on a look for products which they can easily copy and sell for a lower cost. These guys also save on money that you spend on R&D and engineering of the product. Thus, grabbing the market share that your company deserved actually.

And the worst part is you cannot do anything about it. 

This necessitates to have a defined place to capture innovations and track their progress throughout the lifecycle.

Another thing that acts as a friction for inventors to disclose inventions and add them in the patent pipeline is: “long, non-intuitive invention disclosure forms with jargons that only attorneys understand”. At TriangleIP, we understand this friction and thus we have kept the idea capture form very simple in the TIP tool.  

An Easy Idea Form For Inventors | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

#2 Thorough Vetting

If you have a bunch of ideas coming in from different inventors; it’s very much possible that you might not have a budget to pursue them all for IP protection. So in order to choose which ideas to pursue, the ideas need to get evaluated from different aspects. You might wish to keep some ideas as trade secrets or give some to public domain with patent protection. Hence what’s needed here is a thorough vetting of ideas.

Thorough Internal vetting of Ideas | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

Innovation happens quite early in a process. Typically before you have any customer or market validation. Hence all that can be done is speculation on which ideas will generate revenue a few years down the line. It takes around 3-5 years to get patent protection for an invention.

However, one thing that helps you mitigate the risk and choose the best of ideas is to have it vetted by people from different streams; business, legal, engineering, strategy, etc.

Listed below are some important factors to consider to zero down on the ideas for patenting:

  • Strategic vision of the enterprise.
    • Alignment with a product line to have market dominance. 
      • Say there is a company that deals in smart refrigerators. It would want to have patents around advanced functions of refrigerator like: Ordering groceries based on the supplements about to finish in the refrigerator.
    • Market expansion across geographies.
    • Just for defensive purposes against probable lawsuits.
  • Relevance of technology to be patented in long term. Technologies go out of date as industries evolve. 
    • Example: Mobile phones have almost out-dated the landline phones in the last few years.  
  • Budget allocated towards IP.

#3 Curating An Innovation-Driven Work Culture.

“When failure is not an option, we can forget about creativity, learning and innovation. – Brene Brown”

Embracing failure is the key to have an innovation driven culture. Because the studies suggest that a significant percentage of innovations fail. The companies must have enough risk appetite (financially) to handle the failures. (Because somewhere there are chances of blockbuster success too).

And that’s not all, there are many other factors that can encourage or kill innovation culture at an enterprise.

The other day I was reading a book called “The Invincible Company” and in that, I came across a beautiful concept called “The Culture Map”. The culture map talked about the Enablers and Blockers of innovation at a company. It resonated really well with me. 

Innovation Culture Blockers:

  1. Lack of Innovation Strategy.
  2. General Fear of Failure.
  3. Bureaucracy slowing down innovation.
  4. Locked into Current Business Model.
  5. Lack of skills, knowledge and experience.

Innovation Culture Blockers | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

Innovation Culture Enablers

  1. Strategic guidance.
  2. Resource allocation.
  3. Innovation Tools.
  4. Legitimacy and Power.
  5. Skills development.

Innovation Culture Enablers | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

It would be beneficial to take a quick look inside your organization for these enablers and blockers. This shall further be helpful in creating an environment where innovation shall flourish for the organizational good.

#4 Getting Patent Experts Onboard:

Lack of expertise in drafting patents may result in rejection. Mentioned below are some of the top reasons for rejection of patent applications:

  • Improper and Insufficient description of the invention and how it works.
  • Lack of novelty.
  • Non-patentable subject matter; e.g. new use of a known substance.
  • Erroneous Writing: Issues with line numbers, reference numbers on drawings, or paragraph numbers.

If you don’t have in-house experts to write the patent, we suggest that you choose an IP firm that has the reputation and the experience to handle the end-to-end process. You need to have the right people on the job to draft the patent. Ensure that the one who is writing the patent has deep knowledge of the technology, has the right background, understands the fundamentals of a patent, and so on. 

#5 Pruning Patent Portfolio | Abandoning ‘Out-of-Date’ Patents

Let’s say you have a portfolio of many patents (50 or more), only a few of them would be worth a lot. The rest will guzzle your time, effort and money.

Maintenance fee alone can become a significant expense if there are many patents in a portfolio and for quite a long time. The snapshot below  shows the maintenance fee to be paid for patents at different time intervals.

Maintenance Fee USPTO| Patent Pruning | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio | Abandoning Out-of-date Patents

The ability to know when to stop investing in bad IP assets is important to have a strong patent portfolio.

If you look carefully in your portfolio, you will find that there are patents that are areas in orphaned technology or where there is no commercial interest. Free up the budget allocated for it to work on an innovation that is more promising. A technology that was once highly used does not mean it is going to be relevant forever. Some of the patents might have run their utility. 

Let’s take a look at how IBM has pruned it’s patent portfolio over the last 2 decades. IBM has abandoned thousands of patents across T0, T1 and T2. This probably saved them millions of dollars and strengthened the patent portfolio.

IBM US Abandoned Patents by Pruning 1999-2020 | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

There can be many reasons for abandoning the patents:

We, at Triangle IP, are on the way to bring analytics to the TIP tool  that shall help the users identify hopelessly expensive cases.

  • Out-of-date technology as the industry evolved over the years.
  • Change in patent laws in different geographies.
  • No market presence, say you got patents in the UK but the business related to those patents never really took off in the UK. So, maintaining those patents does not make sense.

#6 Expediting the patenting process to be at the right time in the market.

There was a time when it took more than three to five years to get your patent up and running. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore as you can easily get an expedited patent for a few thousand dollars in the US. While it might sound like a big number for a new startup, if it means that you can build your portfolio quicker, then it is wise to get that leverage for yourself. 

You can also watch this video by our co-founder where he explain portfolio management in a greater detail:

To Sum It Up:

Here is a quick recap of the pointers that shall help you progress towards a strong patent portfolio.

1..A well-defined business process to capture ideas and progress them to valuable IP (Intellectual Property). 

2. The process must provide for thorough vetting from strategy, market, legal, feasibility, financial aspects.

3. Curating an innovation culture by removing the blockers and supporting the enablers shall help your people to come up with more valuable inventions.

4. Ensure that your patent applications do not fall in the rejection bucket by hiring experts to write your patent applications.

5. Time-to-time pruning of the patent portfolio i.e. abandoning the patents (due for renewal) can help you strengthen the patent portfolio.

6. Expediting the patenting process for a few thousand dollars shall be a good tradeoff to be at the right place at the right time.

Note: The preceding is general business advice and not to be construed as legal advice. IP laws vary by country and retaining licensed legal counsel is advised to confirm this information. Any expressed or implied opinions are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Triangle IP or any other entity who might be associated with the presenter. We hope this content is helpful to you, but should not be relied upon without confirming the advice and accuracy with local legal counsel. Any comments or inquiries are not confidential so please discuss your issues directly with counsel.

TIP Tool is free for your whole team

No credit card required. No setup fees. No need to download.

5 Factors to Evaluate An Idea Management Tool | IP Strategy

Evaluating an idea management tool

Logically speaking, any investment is worth only if it reaps great returns.

A study by Accenture suggests 62% percent of high-growth companies plan to invest in technologies that lead to higher rates of innovation, compared to 54% of other companies.

Investing in technologies that lead to higher rates of innovation shall be beneficial only if the intellectual property created based on the innovation aligns with:

a) company’s business goals/product line.

b) has a market demand.

c) has the potential to be monetized either by licensing or selling.

d) enhances customer experience.

e) generates revenue growth.

After all, filing a single patent costs a minimum of USD 10,000.

Not sure about the cost of getting IP protection for your product or company? Here is everything you need to know about costs related to your IP in the USA.

Now, where is the scope of failure in creating IP wealth for the company?

1. Patent creation was not thought of from different angles like feasibility, demand, investment, etc.

2. Collaborators from the various segments did not participate in the journey from idea to patent.

3. Redundancy in the novelty of a patent gets caught at a later stage.

All this happens due to the absence of the right tool/software that can assure strategic collaboration and tracking.

So, as a patent portfolio manager of your company, an innovation tracking software tailored to your needs shall be an asset.

A tool that addresses each stage of the journey of an idea to patent as shown below:

Idea Management Process Triangle IP

Here are the 5 factors you should consider while you evaluate an idea management tool:

1. Is the tool easy to use?

2. Is the tool engaging to attract collaborators?

3. Does the tool provide real-time updates?

4. Does the tool manage the process throughout the life-cycle (Idea to Patent)?

5. Does the software keep evolving and getting more sophisticated?

Is the Idea Management Tool Easy to Use?

There is a good possibility that you might have used one of the following ways to manage ideas at your company:

1. Spreadsheets

2. CRM Software

3. Home grown tools comprising forms and tabular data

4. Collaboration tools

5. Expensive Docketing Software

The biggest shortcoming of these solutions is the complexity to use.

Nobody likes to fill long forms. Don’t you agree?

As the number of ideas, collaborators increase, tracking the updates on ideas/innovations becomes tricky and painful.The above mentioned methods are just makeshift arrangements, and not specifically designed keeping user experience in mind.

These tools lack intuitiveness and broad adoption across the enterprise. A user does not feel motivated to use the tool unless really needed. It’s the same as using a handkerchief in place of a specifically designed mask.

A handkerchief is just a make-do arrangement, however, a mask is designed keeping in mind filtration, breath-ability, comfort, ergonomics, etc.

On the contrary, if the tool is easy and simple to use, the collaborators will be encouraged to use the tool. Thus, speeding the process and achieving better results.

Is the Idea Management Tool You are exploring Engaging?

No innovation program is going to be successful unless you make it engaging. If the tool is not engaging, a user won’t be excited or motivated enough to share his/her ideas.

Encouragement to share the ideas is the very basis of such a program. E.g. An intuitive idea capture form for inventors can go a long way to minimise friction for inventors to submit invention disclosures. It’s pretty much the same as sharing posts on social media like Facebook or Linkedin.

Engagement on posts through reactions, comments, impressions, views encourage the users to share even more. Not just more sharing, in fact, it gives users an idea of what type of posts score better in terms of response.

Below are just 10 ways out of many that make an idea & innovations management tool engaging:

1. Minimizing the friction to share ideas/feedback/updates or anything related to the tool.

2. A notification of idea submission to the collaborators for review.

3. A notification of feedback reception to innovator/inventor.

4. Patent Analytics driven Artificial Intelligence (AI) based review/rating on an idea from the tool.

5. Redundancy indication from IP Counsel.

6. Inputs on making the claims stronger for a Patent from IP Counsel.

7. Update on an innovation from business angle to all the collaborators.

8. Budget sanction notification for a successful innovation to be patented.

9. Patent draft available for review notification for all the stakeholders.

10. Inviting ideas to solve certain business challenges through innovation.

Does the Tool share Real-Time Updates?

A lot of stuff out there is very static. For example, if you wish to know the status of the company’s IP, you shall place a request for IP report generation to your patent attorney. The report shall most probably be in a form of a table/spreadsheet. Such a report makes it cumbersome to draw valuable insights on the IP front.

Another major problem with such a report is that it very quickly gets out of date. Hence what’s needed is a provision to track what’s happening with your innovations in real-time.

Here is how real-time updates are really beneficial:

1) People get busy developing the product, they forget about what’s happening with their innovation.

2) A system that monitors what’s going on shall help in making sure things are adhering to the process.

3) Timely updates help is avoiding last moment rush:

  • Realizing that you haven’t filed a patent yet and you are closer to the product release.
  • And then you are scrambling through to find out what’s happening and reaching out to IP counsel to get an update.

4) A one-shot way to update all the stakeholders allows for the transparency of the IP management.

Does the tool Manage the Process throughout the Lifecycle (Idea to Patent)?

Does the tool manage the process throughout the life-cycle(i.e. from Idea to Patent)?

The most common and important question that arises in this whole process is: do we file a patent or not?

Earlier the decision about patenting takes place the better it is, as it results in saving time, money, and effort.

Right provisions like below in the idea management tool can help in taking this important decision in the early stages or at least before regretting the investment made in patenting:

1) Visibility into a knowledge repository of ideas helps to avoid redundancy. There is a possibility that a similar idea got patented earlier. Even before the inventor of innovation in question got hired.

2) Vetting by Subject Matter Experts early on helps in shaping the idea and decide which ones to be pursued

3) Ability to view the patent draft as well as final patent application on the same platform.

Explore-Simulated-Version-of-TIP-Tool

Does the Innovation Management Tool keep Evolving and Getting more Sophisticated?

A pleasant surprise always makes you feel happy. Isn’t it? And only happy users can ensure the success of such a tool.

Innovations do not happen on a daily basis. But, whenever a user comes to the tool, new pleasing features shall engage him better. So such an innovation tracking tool needs to continuously evolve and keep getting more sophisticated.

Here are a few ways to achieve sophistication in an idea and innovation management software:

1) Improved Analytics

2) Enhanced Idea Nurturing

3) Dashboard driven by Great User Experience

4) Customization based on organizational needs

“With the right tools and a great team create strategic IP wealth and not dead investments.”

For a company, that files 40-60 patents per year, a tool that is specifically designed for idea capturing and vetting is sheer bliss.

It is important to make the best use of budget allocated towards creating IP.

We hope that this article could give you pointers to make the right choice for an idea management software.

TIP Tool is one such tool that is getting developed along the lines mentioned above. It currently provides ideas capturing and vetting.

Want to be a part of our beta community? Try it for free.

Note: The preceding is general business advice and not to be construed as legal advice. IP laws vary by country and retaining licensed legal counsel is advised to confirm this information. Any expressed or implied opinions are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Triangle IP or any other entity who might be associated with the presenter. We hope this content is helpful to you, but should not be relied upon without confirming the advice and accuracy with local legal counsel. Any comments or inquiries are not confidential so please discuss your issues directly with counsel.

TIP Tool is free for your whole team

No credit card required. No setup fees. No need to download.