In a recent article, "Is the recession suffocating American Innovation?," Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press describes some trends that may be negatively impacting the success of innovation in the US. There has been a decline in the new patent applications at the US Patent and Trademark Office because some companies are reducing R&D budgets and patent applications expenditures in addition to abandoning patents to save maintenance fees. Further, venture capital funding is less abundant than it has been historically contributing to fewer patents being filed.
However, we believe there are ways to reduce costs, but still obtain adequate protection for innovation. Performing a patent portfolio analysis has helped some companies identify low value patents for abandonment and high value patents for licensing, thus bringing in cash flow.
Implementing a business-aligned IP strategy can provide an improved basis for deciding which inventions should be filed as patent applications, held as trade secret, or published as an enabled publication to destroy novelty to others.
The appropriate disposition of inventions within an IP strategy allows for cost saving via use of less expensive forms of IP (e.g. trade secret and publishing). Further an IP strategy will help identify any areas where pursuit of patents may not be useful. For example, very fast-paced product areas may not benefit from patent applications that require several years to issue. But the key is to intentionally and thoughtfully choose patents to abandon, via the connection between business and IP, so that important intangible assets are not thrown away.
Using these processes can see you through the recession and better prepare your company for the future.