Invention Disclosures | Enablers and Blockers

Do’s & Don’ts For Invention Disclosures

Not enough invention disclosures?

Your patent program may fall apart if your inventors are not submitting enough ideas to feed the pipeline toward patenting. The underlying reasons could be anything; from lack of inventor motivation to the process being confusing.

The progression of an idea from the invention to the patenting needs to be a systematic process with steady and sustained flow through the various stages. It starts with invention disclosure or capture where you would need your inventors to disclose their new innovation.

Let’s do a deep dive into the first step—Invention Disclosure and how you can begin a successful patent program.  

The Invention Disclosure / Idea Capture Form

Simply said, an invention disclosure form (IDF) captures an invention and surrounding details with the intent of possibly patenting. 

Invention Disclosures | The Blockers

Ad-hoc Process

Many companies don’t have a set process for filling IDFs. Some companies use simple forms for invention disclosures, and others have an online equivalent. Tracking of the IDF workflow might use makeshift approaches such as spreadsheets. Sometimes the only process happens with emails. 

Each of these processes has one or the other drawback as listed below:

  1. Non-intuitive for inventors without easy collaboration
  2. Possibility of loss of data in transitions with little transparency
  3. Long and complex forms act as a friction intimidating innovators
  4. Lack of real time updates on the progress from idea to patent

The Reluctant Inventor

Inventors like to create, but their disinterest in long forms is a hurdle. Sometimes, the inventors are too busy with other priorities and other times they shy away from the lengthy process.

There is a possibility of lack of motivation too for inventors to fill the IDFs. Either they are not aware of the importance of patents or there is not sufficient incentive attached with the disclosure process.

Long and Complex Forms

Inventors do not receive instruction on the patent process in university and don’t understand what information should go into the requested form fields. Vague questions frequently create a practical barrier for the first-timers, and a busy inventor might lose interest quickly for a tedious form. Eventually, a lack of guidance to fill out the right information also hampers an inventor’s interest.

Lack of Recognition

Have you motivated your inventors enough to fill an IDF? Positive reinforcement helps.

Those who are less familiar with technical documentation and publishing papers are more reluctant to fill out long forms. Tracking who is submitting ideas into the process and providing positive feedback helps socialize the importance of the patent program.

Lack of Awareness

Often, inventors simply aren’t aware of the patenting process, and they don’t know the benefits of protecting their innovation. Even if companies have a patent training course for their employees, maybe it only happens once a year. Ideally, the awareness starts with hiring, during orientation and should be reinforced frequently.

Sometimes, inventors harbor false perceptions of patents from the wrong sources. Explaining the strategic reasons for the patent program helps socialize the importance to enterprise success. Most companies are loath to enforce their patents as that would scare away participation.  Explaining defensive patent portfolio strategies that discourage others from preemptively suing while enhancing shareholder value with intellectual asset creation are more easily embraced strategies.

Invention Disclosures | The Enablers

You must sufficiently motivate the inventors to avoid the loss of patentable ideas. The innovations not protected are given to the public domain without quickly filing a patent.  Here are a few tips to encourage engagement with the patent process:

Culture Change & Awareness

Conduct regular training for the inventors and IP teams. Educating new employees about the benefits of invention capture and how the complete process can improve your IP portfolio. Explain the strategies for building a patent portfolio. These are great opportunities to also invite industry experts to speak in internal forums. Consider workshops around innovation to motivate people further.

Explain the process clearly and as interactively as possible. Make available an IP expert(s) that inventors can seek out for guidance.

Rewards & Recognition

Creators need the motivation to spend time engaging in the process. Offer a bonus at different stages along the way to getting a patent. In addition to monetary bonuses consider giving them other rewards such as, certificates, manager recognition, and a voice in internal newsletters.

Seek Only What’s Necessary

The process of capturing innovation from inventors should have minimum friction. Long and complex forms discourage engagement. Hence, in the first go, seek only the necessary information with the IDF. 

Title

The title should be a one-line concise description of the invention.

Email

The form should capture the inventor’s email address for follow-up. Contact information about any manager, funder or evangelist would be a plus.

Summary

The summary should be focused on the following three most important things:

  1. Technical problem the invention solves
  2. Scientific or technical solution – the invention itself
  3. Advantages over existing solutions to the subject problem

Attaching existing diagrams, presentations, and other documents that add clarity towards understanding the invention better.

Keeping all the above in mind, we have designed the idea capture form with a very simple and intuitive approach via the TIP tool (an innovation management software) at TriangleIP. 

To download the Invention Disclosure Form, request below!

Download IDF in Word Format

Download IDF in Excel Format

The form limits necessary fields only to the invention title and inventor’s email. It also has a summary section where the inventor fills out the invention details in a problem-solution-benefits format. The inventor can also attach notes about the invention to share additional details. The form further has few additional fields for subjective value, patentability estimate and any filing deadline.

Here is another good read for you – “7 surefire ways to get more invention disclosures“.

Wrapping Up The Do’s & Don’ts For Invention Disclosures

The first step to creating a successful patent program is to set up a systematic process to capture ideas and manage their journey to patent protection. Invention disclosures are the beginning point in this program. Encourage your inventors to fill the disclosures by:

  • Keeping the process intuitive
  • Incentivizing the process of writing and submitting disclosures
  • Training the inventors on the importance of IP
  • Creating a culture of innovation that seeks to produce regularly
  • Simplifying and socializing the innovation management process

With these tips, we hope your inventors fill your capture program with an abundance of IDFs to feed your patent program.

Beyond the use of the downloadable IDF form we provided above, the TIP tool by Triangle IP can help you manage your patent program with it’s simple workflow and drag-and-drop features. Additionally, the tool is soon going to offer various analytics that can enhance patenting decision-making. Definitely give it a try! 

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 unlimited users

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

7 Surefire Ways To Get More Invention Disclosures

7 Ways to Get More Invention Disclosures

“Getting more invention disclosures is an uphill task since inventors and paperwork usually do not go together very well.”

If your organization is not able to get enough invention disclosures from your inventors, you are not alone. People are not eager to engage with things they do not understand. Long, complex forms are just that kind of thing. Inventors are busy people. Their main job is innovation and development, not paperwork.

Inventors often completely forget to report their inventions for patenting because of their busy schedules. Sometimes, they think that the invention is too obvious and they don’t report it at all. As a result,  the innovation managers may lose potentially patentable ideas.

The first step is to get inventors to capture more innovation using an invention disclosure form. Furthermore, when inventors fail to submit invention disclosures in a timely manner,  it leads to the patenting process being rushed. All too often enterprises approach me just before the launch date, seeking help for patent protection at the eleventh hour. However, as discussed below, there are ways to solve this problem.

More Invention Disclosures

Here are 7 ways you can get inventors to submit more invention disclosures:

  1. Training inventors on the importance of IP to socialize the process
  2. Keeping the invention capture process simple and understandable
  3. Ensuring the availability of IP experts in-house or from outside on a contractual basis
  4. Formulating an incentive program that encourages inventor involvement throughout the entire process
  5. Making participation in the IP program part of the inventor’s job description
  6. Evangelizing of the patent program from the executive level down
  7. Making the creation of IP a core part of the organisation’s culture

#1 – Training and Socialization

Training and educating about the importance of idea capture and the ways to fill the invention disclosure form (IDF) efficiently is essential. An IDF helps your organisation begin the process to decide which inventions are patentable and worth pursuit. The information in the IDF also documents information that will help evaluation and drafting of a patent application. 

Conduct interactive sessions with the inventors to explain the invention disclosure and patent process. Also, your organisation can circulate samples of properly filled forms where the patents have been granted successfully. Consider publishing guidelines for filling out the form or recording training for all new hires to understand the innovation program.

#2 – Simple & Engaging Process

As stated above, people do not engage with intimidating things they do not understand. The process for filling out an IDF needs to be simple and avoid unnecessary complexity. It has to allow the inventors to gather their thoughts about the invention and express them easily. 

One of the ways to increase engagement with the disclosure process is by having online disclosure forms. Electronic forms can be reactive and adaptive depending on the answers.  It also can provide helpful tips and allow collaboration with all parties involved.

Whether the IDF is online or not, it should aim to document only the necessary information to initiate the process. Invention disclosure mainly requires the inventor to accurately describe the technologic  problem and solution along with advantages of their invention over prior solutions. To avoid intimidation, the disclosure form needs to be as short as possible with simple language. The key elements of an intuitive and inventor friendly IDF are:

  • Title of the invention
  • Inventor’s contact information
  • Summary of the idea / invention including: 
    • The problem that prompted the creation of the invention
    • The solution provided by the invention
    • The novel and/or enhanced features in comparison to previous similar inventions
  • Detailed diagrams, flow charts, drawings etc. explaining the working of the invention are great too
  • Attaching any pre-existing documentation will help

Ask your inventors to answer these basic questions in order to make the drafting of comprehensive patent specifications easier. Proper invention disclosure will ensure a hassle free patent prosecution process. 

At Triangle IP we have created a simple Invention Disclosure Form, which we also call an Idea Capture Form. It skips the complex questions that need answers at later stages of the patent prosecution process. There is also the option of adding tags, which can be helpful later to filter ideas.

Triangle IP Idea form / invention disclosure form
The Idea Form At TriangleIP

If you wish you can download the idea from using the form below:

#3 – Availability of IP Experts

Your organisation can also explore the possibility of employing in-house Intellectual Property (IP) professionals who can help the inventors with the process. If employing a full or part-time in-house IP professional is not possible, then you should identify and engage outside IP professionals.  There are consultants, patent agents and patent attorneys who are well versed in the innovation capture process. Conducting seminars with the help of IP experts once or twice a year can be beneficial too. 

#4 – Incentive Programs

When there is a lack of incentives to participate in the patenting process, inventors do not feel the need to pay as much attention to filling out IDFs. Encourage the proper disclosure of inventions by providing inventors with varying monetary incentives at different stages. These programs vary in their incentive while paying for engagement through the patent process. For example, award incentives at the following stages of the process:

  • Upon submitting the IDF
  • When the invention is selected for patenting 
  • At the time of filing the patent application
  • Upon grant of the patent(s)
  • After the inflow of revenue from the invention
Incentive program for inventors to motivate them to submit more invention disclosures

#5 – Participation in the IP Program.

At the time of hiring engineers, software developers, scientists, and other innovators, your organisation should set clear expectations for them to participate in the patent program. Include a specific question regarding employee’s contributions to the company’s patent program in any self-evaluation / annual review. This encourages participating and eventually submitting more disclosures. 

Explore-Simulated-Version-of-TIP-Tool

#6 – Evangelists for Patent Programs

The top management of your organization should remind employees of the importance of the patent program. They should encourage inventors to submit an IDF as soon as an idea is conceived. Management endorsement and reminders assure the patent program will succeed. This priority will spread to the rest of the employees at the company. Without buy-in from top management, a patent program cannot be successfully implemented in your organisation.

#7 – Innovation-Driven Culture

Your organisation should make the process of invention disclosure and patent prosecution worth the inventor’s while. Your patent program should not be a burden on the inventor. IP awareness and protection should be a cultural thing, which is structured properly and decorated in its policies. Integrating IP strategy into your business policies fosters innovation, for example, the employee handbook. An effective patent program will properly protect your innovation.

Download this short, simple yet powerful Invention Disclosure Form to help you with your disclosure process

Conclusion

A simple and engaging invention disclosure process with the right training and motivation for inventors will help your organisation to:

  • Capture more invention disclosures
  • Decrease innovation that never gets documented
  • Expedite the process of filing patent applications
  • Documents innovation with knowledge capture
  • Provide your company with all the benefits of patent protection

Create a culture in your organisation where inventors understand the importance of patents and are enthusiastic about the process. To get more invention disclosures, train inventors to accurately fill out the IDF while socializing the program. A proper capture process helps identify all the ideas which can be transformed into patentable inventions. 

The IDF needs to be simple and engaging. At Triangle IP (TIP) we have created an intuitive drag-and-drop innovation capture tool to take control of the patent mining process while encouraging collaboration. Using the TIP innovation management tool will maximize innovation capture at your organization.

7 surefire ways to get more invention disclosures

TIP Tool is free for unlimited users

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