Olivier Huc, European Sales Director at Anaqua shares highlights from a recent discussion on building smart IP portfolios.
At the recent Innovation & IP Forum and Awards 2022 in Paris, I moderated a panel discussion on the topic of From Innovation to Patent: Building a Smart Portfolio and Defending It. Panelists included:
- Paulo Cardoso, Head of IP Portfolio, GRUPO NABEIRO
- Laurent Farlotti, Director of Innovation & IP, Quadient
- Simone Frattasi, Head of Global IP, A.P. Moller - Maersk
- Davide Pinna, Head of IP at Ansaldo Energia Group
Driven by the excellent panelists, the discussion ranged from early-stage development to building a solid foundation between IP and R&D in a time of change.
The panelists discussed how critical it is for IP and R&D to work hand in hand, yet, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Aligning goals between these two business areas can be difficult. Additionally, IP departments are frequently perceived to be a cost center. Figuring out how IP can be a strategic area of the organization early on can help down the line.
Davide Pinna spoke about how the perception of IP as a cost center or, more positively, a profit center can depend on the industry and the type of company you are in. He said, “Does the IP department report to the CEO, or to the legal department, or R&D or others? This will give an indication of which is the role of IP for the company. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s important to put IP in the best light possible.”
For Laurent Farlotti, first thing is to get R&D’s attention when there are so many other competing priorities such as time to market. “In large companies, R&D is not always a single entity but is made of diverse groups with completely different processes. There is no easy solution. Interpersonal relationships play a key role and take time to build.” Designing around a competitor’s patent is often a good starting point, which can lead to increased collaboration. “You know it’s going in the right direction when R&D asks you for prior art on a new topic.”
Laurent Farlotti added: “Management does not understand what a smart portfolio means. Management understands money. IP protection is an investment like another. Show R&D what the competition is doing, benchmark your strongest competitors, and together create a clear strategy on what to protect and the key countries. Then be predictable with your IP budget to build trust between the two departments.”
The value of the IP department to the organization is not always evident to R&D, Davide Pinna explains: “IP can become a resource for research and development. Frequently though, often the IP can be seen as a fence to protect one's garden. It’s important to help show them the landscape outside of their garden and have a look at their neighbors’ gardens. This is where IP can bring value.”
Adapting to Market Changes
Building a solid foundation between the IP and R&D departments is key. However, this should not be the only consideration for those looking to build strong innovation management. You also need to look at how well the IP team is positioned to respond to market changes and organizations shifting their business strategy. For example, we have witnessed major changes in some industries driven by significant technology disruptions. These disruptions have impacted the way the IP department considers IP protection.
"No market is safe from potential disruption. The first challenge is how to react to it. Timely decision-making is paramount,” said Paulo Cardoso, adding that disruption can be seen internally as a threat or an opportunity but, either way, it puts your organization under intense competitive pressure.”
He explained: “One of the answers can be to jump-start an innovation and IP effort with the creation of a dedicated team with a ‘start-up’ attitude. You can also play the game at various levels; and move from a trademark experience to patent as you see the threat evolving…Such events can be a vector of innovation in the group and feed the core business. However, don’t forget that people are at the center, not patents. Because there are no patents without people.”
Making Smart Decisions
Focus on the basics. The first stage of building a portfolio is to capture the data from the inventors and then consider its patentability. How can you approach this critical task?
According to Simone Frattasi, there are two options, amongst others: the Stage-Gate Model and the Agile Delivery Process. The Stage-Gate Model is an innovation management model used for structuring the innovation process into defined phases, separated by distinctive gates. The Agile Delivery Process is an iterative method used for structuring the innovation process into a series of sprints, each usually lasting two weeks. While the Stage-gate Model is typically suitable for conventional R&D projects, the Agile Delivery Process is more appropriate for software development projects. Since a thorough IP process is beneficial for any successful innovation project, Simone has integrated all the elements of IP protection and IP risk management into the two frameworks.
Simone Frattasi also discussed the importance of 'smart' decision-making during the lifetime of a patent. Many companies use scoring mechanisms to help determining the 'value' of patents. "When your IP portfolio is made of more than a few thousand patents, scoring can help scooping up the likely valuable portions of that portfolio and its key patents," said Simone, adding that "scoring though offers only a 'potential' value rather than an 'actual' value, while other methodologies should be applied for gaining an overview of the portfolio against the patent strategy."
Forward-thinking organizations such as those represented by the panelists who spoke at Innovation & IP Forum and Awards 2022 often embrace innovation management tools and processes that will support sustained innovation.
Anaqua’s AQX™ Innovation Management supports organizations in capturing ideas, identifying gaps, problem solving, and ensuring alignment between the innovation and IP teams and the strategic vision of the company. The suite also helps organizations get to market faster through capabilities that enable improved collaboration and enhanced decision-making processes to accelerate the best ideas forward.
Read this recent blog on Stronger Innovation Management Tools and Processes to learn more.