Figure 1 shows that after the IP strategy and tactics have been developed, they must then be executed in order to have the desired impact on the business. If the de facto IP strategy is a legal one, then it has already been implemented by the IP attorney, working with the inventors, with possible input from management. Generally, there will be an existing invention disclosure process with an invention disclosure form, some sort of patent filing decision process, and a foreign filing decision process. This tends to result in a patent portfolio that is inefficient and may not meet the needs of the business as management had intended. By not executing a business-aligned IP strategy, considerable value may have been missed. Aligning the IP strategy with the business strategy requirements will ensure that the implementation of the process will be achieved, measured and managed based on sustainable metrics.
In many companies, these processes are often ad hoc. At Dow, before an IP Review Committee was installed, inventors competed to get their inventions filed as patent applications by being the “squeakiest wheel” in the patent department. Without further guidance, patent attorneys worked on patent applications based on the input they had from inventors. This led to many non-business-aligned patents being filed. This was corrected when new IP Review Committees prioritized invention disclosures based on fit to the IP strategy. The company’s patent portfolio began to increase in value, if not in size.
As this example demonstrates, the Company had a long way to go to improve the ICM processes in order to execute the IP strategy.
The major categories of ICM processes needed to execute the IP strategy are shown as a process flow diagram, Figure 2. This is a good way to view the total program: from the initial project planning and motivating of your human capital, through the processes to create the invention, document it, review it (for compliance with the IP strategy), protect it, and extract the value. Companies may have some of these processes in more of an ad hoc fashion, non-integrated with the various stakeholders, and as a result do not benefit from a dedicated, well thought-out, implemented IP strategy.
The first step in implementing IP strategy is to thoroughly evaluate which processes you have that are working well and which processes are absent or are not yielding the desired results. It is important for a company to consider the best practices used by other IP leaders, both inside the company’s industry as well as in other industries. A key to ensuring successful ICM process integration is to be considerate of the company’s culture and existing processes. Failure analysis of previous ICM process implementations has shown integration with the existing processes and culture to be extremely important. This will allow companies to avoid making the same mistakes similar companies have made in the past.