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Ask any CEO what her objectives are for the year and there’s a good chance that her answer will involve growth. Revenue and profit growth are important financial metrics of business success. Asset growth is another key financial indicator that points to increasing shareholder value. An important class of assets to consider when planning for growth, especially in technology companies, is intellectual property.
Like any other asset class in the company, there are two basic ways to grow your intellectual property portfolio:
A good patent portfolio grows organically with inventions generated by employees. It is important to foster an innovation-minded culture by providing learning sessions on IP, performing regular idea-mining sessions to log the IP that is being created, and celebrating creativity by promoting patent filings and issuances. Becoming an inventor is can be a source of motivation and pride for employees.
Learning sessions help employees understand the importance of not disclosing IP prior to its adequate protection, which is particularly important now that the USA has aligned with other countries in a “first-to-file” rule. These sessions explain how to protect information within the company (e.g. are your whiteboards left overnight covered with brilliant unprotected ideas?) and what information should be put in writing in a lab book.
All employees (and contractors) should have signed proper employment contracts assigning the IP they create and future related filings to the company. Assignments should be filed in the patent offices as soon as the application is filed to avoid having to reach out to potentially disgruntled employees.
The IP logged during idea-mining sessions should be prioritized and a filing plan executed promptly for the most promising ideas. Plan for success by budgeting for a target number of filings per quarter in order to focus the efforts.
There are also a number of cost effective ways to acquire patents. It is possible to grow an IP portfolio by buying assets from struggling companies or banks that are left with IP used as collateral. Single inventors and universities are often a source of patents that can be acquired at a reasonable price.
Collaborative research is a way to generate IP that can be owned by the company. Finally, a lesser known way to grow a portfolio is to monitor patents that are just expiring. Identify IP of interest that can be adapted to today’s technology. In many cases, new patent applications can be filed based on the combination.
These excellent methods of expanding corporate assets can be implemented with only modest effort. If growing your business is a priority, and you want your growth engine firing on all cylinders, then building your IP assets both organically and through acquisition ought to be part of your strategy.