Facilitating invention, acquiring technology and IP from outside the company, and inventing around patents are key processes for creating and acquiring IP. Many companies have adopted the best practices of conducting proactive invention extraction sessions and directed invention brainstorming. In invention extraction sessions trained facilitators help to capture and articulate the engineering staff’s inventive ideas about specific topics. This helps to obtain the inventions that are needed to support the IP strategy. Directed invention brainstorming is a related process where facilitators trained in creativity techniques work with the inventors to guide them in the creation of inventive concepts that directly support the IP strategy. This may be needed to fill gaps in the patent coverage or to address other strategic issues. Invention extraction sessions and directed invention brainstorming help to obtain better results than would be achieved by hoping that the right inventions “bubble up to the top.”
One company I was familiar with used these best practices to invent a new type of specialty polymer. The closest patent art from a variety of companies and universities was summarized for a group of scientists representing diverse technologies. During the process, creativity techniques were used to spur the scientists’ thinking. This novel approach to enabling the invention resulted in a conceptual molecular structure that fulfilled the company’s strategic need.
Acquiring technology and IP through in-licensing or cross-licensing may be crucial to your IP strategy. Creating a strategy framework is very helpful to the process to ensure that you get what you need at the best possible terms, as a blanket “we want to own everything” may not be the most effective negotiation strategy. To create this framework, it is critical that before you start the negotiations, you know what kind of IP rights you need. This will save both time and money for the company. In planning your approach, it is also important to understand the other party’s IP portfolio, business culture and market strategy. Additional background information for the negotiation can be generated through the processes of evaluating the IP involved.
The last process in creating and acquiring IP includes inventing around patents or particular claims. This can be useful in developing a picket fence protection strategy to your key IP. It can also be used to invent around a specific third party patent claims. A facilitated approach works very well to focus inventors’ creativity on this challenge.