Innovation teams are often removed organizationally from a company’s patent matters. This can mean that corporate innovation processes move forward with little or no consideration of whether competitors can legally “knock off” the resulting consumer offering. Companies may then not attain expected ROI because competitors can legally copy the innovation—be it a product, technology or otherwise—without incurring legal liability.
It may not always be necessary to protect innovation efforts with patents, such as where a product has a short shelf-life or where the company may desire to maintain trade secret protection for the technology. However, for innovation endeavors where go-forward financial models assume exclusivity, companies often require patent protection. Also, the absence of patent insights at an early stage frequently means that innovations are not properly scoped for potential infringement risk until significant efforts are expended, a fact which can further limit innovation ROI.
It follows that companies can realize financial benefits by including patent information at an early stage. A key to successful inclusion of patent information in early stage innovation processes is the realization that not all patent experts can operate in this environment and that corporate leadership must competently manage the situation. Nonetheless, companies that effectively include business-focused patent counsel on innovation teams can improve the ability to obtain innovations protected by patents as well as reducing legal risks to improve ROI.