This month it happened again – meeting with a company about defining their patent strategy, only for them to discover their filing and prosecution strategy was the same as it was 5 years ago when they started. Unfortunately for them the seemingly vast changes in law, license environments, and competitive space have left them with little relevant IP to use going forward… and a hefty legal bill to show for it. There is an inherent risk associated with filing patents – the process is longer than it takes to get some products to market, and is tremendously costly. This issue becomes compounded for most companies as they are too small to have their own IP group, so it becomes an outsourced action to counsel, managed by a VP or R&D leader, a line item checked in quarterly meetings saying “patents are underway”.
But what are the IP leaders doing? How are they positioning for success?
Innovation as the new IP
While the majority of organizations continue to plow onwards, perhaps only adjusting the patent budget line item as needed, a few companies seem to be tackling the change head on. And much like a canary in the coal mine scenario, some of the first moves for change can be see in the professional NPE or Innovation firms. For example, companies like Patent Utility – formed to remove the friction of licensing in the market – has pivoted to Haystack IQ which is linking innovation and IP together for clients. ipCreate, an innovation on demand firm (also heavily linked with IP in the executive team) is also growing, announcing a major fundraising effort earlier this year. Last month IAM Magazine reported that publicly traded NPEs Vringo and WiLAN have also hinted at becoming more involved in product development, and R&D activities, as has Marathon following its merger with Uniloc. It is not a coincidence that those heavily involved in IP are pushing for a greater link to tangible new innovations as part of their growth (or survival) strategy.
A change in thinking
It is becoming clear that the IP professionals are seeing future of IP tightly linked to innovation programs. As first movers they will be spending a tremendous amount of time focusing to get ahead, while traditional R&D firms doing innovation will be left well behind with their old IP strategies. So this begs the question – are R&D based companies, who are centered around innovation for survival as well, updating their IP plans to be aligned with the IP professionals path?
There is a new fight within innovation emerging and the only thing that is clear is this: It is time for Innovation + IP strategy reboot.