5 IP Strategies for the C-Suite

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For corporate executives, this time of year typically coincides with the following company initiatives: "Planning for the future, "Adding new forms of revenue in view of maturing products", or Strategic initiatives to address "changing demographics"

Looking for an innovative and effective way to tackle these initiatives? Consider turning to your company's IP counsel to help implement these 5 best-in-class IP strategies.

The Important Role of IP Counsel

IP counsel's skills include managing a wide range of ideas ranging from core products to new developments. Protecting core products is generally straightforward as these are identified and known. New developments, however, are just as valuable to a company's success as core products but are harder to manage and need a corporate-wide focused effort.

Driving these 5 IP strategies will invigorate your employees and ensure the business can capture maximum value from its research and development efforts.

1) Create a Company IP Culture

First, kick-start an IP culture by identifying employees that possess entrepreneur qualities. This group of employees is the core customer base of your IP counsel - they need to interface with each other on a regular basis.

Next, send the right messages to keep momentum building: "Protecting our core products and services is our revenue base" and "Don't stop working on our new developments, we will need them for the future." What will follow will be measurable as the number of invention disclosures for new ideas largely depends on effective communications between the entrepreneur class of employees generating ideas and your IP Counsel. Look for that information.

2) Use an Incentive Program To Drive Innovation

Incentives are the grand barter. Everyone is busy. Generating that extra document disclosing an idea isn't going to be on people's radar if there is no cash or award.

If your company has an established way of recognizing and awarding individual efforts and success - use it in the IP process. If there is no program, implement one. Your IP Counsel needs to able to create an invention rewards program to promote innovation disclosures, recognize patent filings and issuances, licensing, and to award ideas implemented that are otherwise kept as a trade secret.

Established recognition programs - one named after the company's founder - often has its benefits as employees are already well aware of ways to get a founder's bonus. A new innovation program may appear contrite. A good strategy may be to take the founder's bonus and apply a multiple (2x, 3x, etc.) to reflect modern award amounts.

3) Use a Modern IP Database To Manage Company IP

IP Counsel will not be effective without a modern IP database. IP Counsel must effectively manage ideas, budgets, legal costs, product launches, licenses, litigation and compliance reports.

Using an effective IP database, IP Counsel is able to generate regular reports and sent them to groups by email. IP databases can track matters on costs, timing, future spend and many other factors. Reports on spend, the status of capturing, protecting, licensing and compliance are easier than ever to create.

Providing IP information to the right people, when done well, can help the company maintain competiveness and will add flexibility to its global operations.

4) Track Ideas and Projects

At a very basic level all innovation begins as a trade secret.

For example, a fantastic idea destined for worldwide use is thought of by an employee. The employee can't tell the idea outside the company because the employee signed a confidentiality agreement. The idea goes nowhere if the employee does nothing - and can even be lost.

The idea needs to be brought out - disclosed, identified and tracked - particularly, by IP Counsel.

A benefit in identifying and tracking ideas is that your IP Counsel now has the ability to find past ideas for new developments and to use them offensively and defensively. I'll explain:

Development teams are rarely static. Team members come and go. The ability of your IP Counsel to find a disclosure that explains the idea of a departed team member has several advantages. The disclosure document provides the shoulders for the new team member to stand on and to focus further efforts. It also helps the company as development costs are not multiplied unnecessarily.

From a defensive perspective, your counsel is tasked, from time to time, with reviewing an IP claim from third parties. A prior use defense in IP claims is when a previous development by your company has dates prior to the dates important to that third party's claim. If your company has the ability to produce an idea identified and collected by your IP Counsel at a time prior to the third party's earliest claimed date -- you are likely to doge a very expensive bullet.

5) Actively Report on IP Developments

Reporting the state of your company's intellectual property is a modern necessity. Regular reports are needed to help everyone with the global effort of new developments.

A modern IP database with rules, date computations, and reporting is a significant help to your IP Counsel. It can make or break your IP Counsel's communicating with the entrepreneur class of employees generating ideas and working on new developments.

Active reporting also helps keep the momentum of your message in creating the culture.