One of the biggest challenges faced by IP departments is ensuring that new ideas and inventions are captured. Of course, it’s critical to remember that the submission of invention disclosures that are so valuable to IP departments are unlikely to be the primary concern of your inventors. With limited exceptions, most inventors aren’t focused on “inventing” – they have day jobs. They are likely more concerned with creating, building or enhancing new products and services that can be sold, rather than capturing those ideas in invention disclosure forms so that they can be patented. This also means that their thinking can sometimes be limited to what will likely be productized and not necessarily what might be possible or innovative. To supercharge your company’s patent program, consider these five simple steps:
Look Beyond R&D and Engineering
Naturally, most IP departments focus their efforts on working with R&D and Engineering teams to uncover and document new ideas and inventions – and that makes sense. However, consider expanding your reach to work with other departments across the organization. Product Management understands not only your product and its roadmap, but also the product features your customers’ desire, and Product Marketing understands the market and competitive landscape. Both of these groups can provide a rich source of new ideas and inventions, and neither should be overlooked.
Meet with Inventors Face-to-Face
When possible, meet with inventors face-to-face, and be explicit about what types of inventions are valuable and should be documented. Consider meeting with inventors from different departments at the same time and use these opportunities to begin a dialogue to brainstorm new ideas. Being able to gauge non-verbal feedback in an in-person meeting will enable you to probe further where it makes sense and provide additional clarification where needed.
Keep Inventors Informed
Periodically, provide inventors with an update covering the company’s patent program highlighting YTD and YoY invention submissions and patent filings so that they are informed and better understand the important role that they play. Also empower them with the ability to view the status of their invention disclosure submissions and monetary awards.
Provide Top Inventors with Additional Assistance
Obviously, making the submission of invention disclosures simple is key in casting the widest net possible. However, for those regularly producing high-value inventions, provide additional assistance such as translation services for non-native speakers, access to collaboration platforms to engage with other top inventors, and administrative or paralegal assistance in preparing and submitting invention disclosure forms.
Recognize Key Contributors
With the possible exception of start-ups, most companies pay monetary awards to inventors – usually at the time of patent filing or grant, and often at the time of invention disclosure submission as well. That said, don’t underestimate the value of public recognition for your inventors. Public recognition can be done via the presentation of plaques or awards at departmental or company-wide meetings. For many inventors, this can be more meaningful and appreciated than monetary awards.