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Steve Sponseller
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July 14, 2021

INSIGHTS ARTICLE: Innovation Strategies, Inc. - Steve Sponseller: Patents in the Age of Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation is accelerating the innovation process across most industries. As a result of this transformation, companies are investing significant time and money developing new products. Many of these new products contain patent-worthy inventions distinguishing them from other products in the marketplace.
 
Patents protect your investments of time and money spent developing new products by allowing the patent owner to stop competitors from using protected inventions.
 
Converging technologies are accelerating inventions in many sectors. Exponential technologies are also creating inventions at a rapid pace. Today, more than ever, it is important to quickly identify and protect critical inventions because most countries, including the United States, have “first to file” patent laws.
 
Based on more than 20 years of experience working with companies to protect their inventions, I have developed a 3-step process to identify, evaluate, and protect your most important inventions. This process helps you build a portfolio of patents that protect your inventions, position your business as an industry leader, and provide a competitive advantage.
 
1. Identify All Inventions
 
Before you can think about protecting your inventions, you first need to identify them. Start by teaching your team members how to identify inventions and giving examples of inventions created in your organization. Give your team members a simple way to submit inventions for evaluation by a review committee. A simple one-page document is easy to complete and ensures that inventions aren’t lost because the inventor didn’t want to take time to fill out a long, complex form. Implement a system to track these invention submissions so nothing slips through the cracks.
 
Be sure to incorporate the identification of inventions into your product development process. When a new product is finished, look back at the development process and identify inventions that were created. You can also consider invention mining and brainstorming activities. Try to make the invention process fun by including invention contests and creative ideation activities.
 
2. Evaluate and Prioritize Your Inventions
 
You can’t afford to protect every invention, and some inventions are not worth protecting, so you need to prioritize. Create an invention evaluation committee within your organization to evaluate all inventions based on criteria unique to your company (e.g., based on company goals, growth plans, status of competitors, and exit strategy).
 
Schedule regular invention evaluation committee meetings based on the volume of invention disclosures received. At each meeting, evaluate all new inventions and assign a next step for each evaluated invention. Record these next steps and assign follow-up tasks for each invention.
 
3. Protect the Right Inventions
 
When building a portfolio of patents for your business, it is important to develop four different types of patents to provide a barrier to entry by competitors.
  • Core Technology. These patents protect the unique features of your fundamental technology, framework, or systems. This core technology often represents the foundation of your products that gives you a competitive edge.
  • Critical Must-Have Features. These include special features that make your product stand out in the marketplace. By protecting must-have features, you can strengthen your competitive advantage by preventing other companies from offering these features.
  • Future Inventions. Strengthen your company’s future by looking at today’s industry trends and technology trends to predict future problems. Invent solutions to those problems now so you have broad patent protection when the rest of the world catches up.
  • Defensive Patents. Your portfolio of patents should include inventions that target your most aggressive competitors. Having some strong defensive patents in your portfolio may discourage litigation by aggressive competitors because you can defend yourself by asserting your patents against the competitor. 
Patents can protect the great inventions created by your team. Take action to implement the 3-step process described above to identify, evaluate, and protect your most important inventions developed during this age of digital transformation.

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