The research and development (R&D) process can require considerable investment in both time and money. But, in the rush to market, it can be difficult for R&D teams to identify those innovations that are of most value for protection as patents. Novagraaf’s Philippe Vigand introduces a new service that could assist: IP Capture.
How does a busy R&D team focus its efforts in order to methodically extract innovations for protection as patents, while avoiding those areas where little gain is to be found? While all businesses want to find ‘nuggets’ of value for the future, in the rush to deliver, it is all too easy to overlook potentially valuable, but non-core, innovations – or to focus R&D in the wrong areas.
The ability of a business to deliver on its goals of building a strong and defensible patent portfolio will often depend on the guidelines and processes it puts in place at the very beginning of the R&D cycle.
An independent view
To successfully capture innovation, in-house patent teams or their external advisers need to have mechanisms in place to identify, extract and analyse inventions. Ideally, this is achieved via an organised dialogue between patent experts and the R&D teams (and/or inventors) in line with a pre-agreed and structured methodology. To be effective, this methodology needs to guide technical teams, enabling them to detect and/or improve innovation within the company.
Novagraaf has created such a methodology in ‘IP Capture’, a service that we also deliver in association with a specialist third party in France and Switzerland (Neo Factory, a company that focuses on the creation and industrialisation of innovative products). Our teams work together with customers’ internal stakeholders (R&D heads, inventors, technicians and project managers, and so on) in order to review existing projects and procedures so as to detect, identify and extract technical solutions likely to be protected. Our ‘IP Capture’ methodology also covers:
- ongoing improvements that detail, develop and enrich technical solutions, as identified via feasibility study;
- evaluation of the patentability of solutions; and
- compilation of technical and legal issues in a single report that allows the business to make an easy and direct filing decision while summarising the potential reach of the innovation identified.
Steps to success
One of the strengths of IP Capture is to be found in the immersive nature of the solution. The methodology ensures the customer’s R&D department provides direct access to information; while, in return, Novagraaf ensures the in-house team receives timely advice (or ‘interventions’) on the patentability of innovations, and possible improvements or alternatives.
Such ‘interventions’ are managed according to criteria pre-decided with the customer; for example, in line with the technical field of inventions, geographical proximity or the availability of resources. It could involve a one-time intervention as part of a specific project, a review of ongoing projects or a total immersion of our dedicated team within the company.
A fresh pair of eyes
Businesses will often look to their external patent counsel to sit in on planning sessions or R&D review meetings in order to encourage in-house teams to keep the potential patentability of inventions front of mind. IP Capture takes this practice one step further, helping the business to maximise the output of its R&D efforts from the very beginning of the innovation life cycle. This includes ensuring that any invention is worked according to technical and legal prior art, so as to ensure the broadest possible patent protection is obtained. There are costs benefits too of avoiding potential impasses or unnecessary workarounds early on in the process.
We find that the methodology also helps to generate new ideas as it requires inventors and R&D teams to discuss the invention from the outset, using technical, industrial and creative language, and highlighting any constraints in advance that might impact the patentability of their output.
As both IP and R&D budgets continue to be squeezed, the implementation of a tailored and structured methodology such as this could be the difference between patent headaches and patent success.
Philippe Vigand is Managing Director – Patents, Novagraaf Group