Intellectual Property (IP) comes in many guises, from copyright to trade secrets and know-how to patents.
Much of it is intangible, and can’t be formally ‘owned’ or protected, but protectable IP, such as patents and design rights, can be of huge commercial value in preventing competition. However, that value is only present if the patent(s) is applicable to the marketable product, and ideally as many competitive alternatives as possible.
From our experience innovators can gain the most value from their IP when bearing in mind these top 5 considerations:
1. Avoiding premature solution lock-in
A common scenario is for early-stage ideas to obtain a patent, only to find that the best, marketable product ends up falling outside of it. The outcome of a robust development process is to achieve the ‘best’ (for application, consumer, manufacturing, cost etc.) design, which may necessitate a different embodiment than initially imagined. The timing of obtaining a patent and managing it through the filing process can therefore have a major bearing on downstream ROI from it.
Understanding the product development pathway and the opportunities for the creation of new, protectable ideas can be useful in setting out an IP strategy.
2. Maximising breadth of patents to prevent competition
Exploring alternative means to achieve the same functionality during the concept design stage can often highlight approaches that competitors may use. Incorporating these into the claims of a patent application also protects these approaches, strengthening the patent and potentially increasing its value.
3. Description of claims
While many patents are instigated by inventors, their wording is often drafted by patent attorneys. The exact nature of the invention can get lost in translation, meaning that critical aspects may not be appropriately covered. While patent attorneys are highly skilled, an engineering review of their draft can be useful to ensure a strong a patent as possible.
4. Circumventing competitive IP
While market access may appear to be blocked by patents covering existing products, exploring alternative methodologies to achieve the same or improved functionality is often a great driver for innovative products and customer propositions. Understanding the limitations of published patents combined with an inventive mindset can yield novel and attractive solutions.
5. IP Ownership
The patent portfolio can often be a major part of a company’s value. Shared ownership of patents or other arrangements regarding access to them, such as licencing or royalties, can rapidly dilute this value. Working with partners who create and enhance IP on your behalf, without taking a stake, such as eg technology, means that you retain the full value of the IP.
Maximising the value of patents requires their understanding from an innovation and engineering perspective. At eg technology, we support clients at all stages of product development, including helping them navigate their patent journey. Please contact us to discuss how we can help you obtain competitive advantage.
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