Thinking Beyond Patents: Why You Need 360 IA (Holistic Intellectual Assets)

While our book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue, has a lot to say on innovation and managing innovation, we also have important sections on intellectual asset strategy. An entire chapter, for example, is dedicated to intellectual asset tools for dealing with disruptive innovation.

One of the key concepts we discuss is what we call “360 IA” (three-hundred and sixty degree intellectual assets). The 360 IA approach considers the full scope of intellectual asset tools for protecting your innovation. Patents are just a part of that, and even then, we challenge you to think beyond conventional process and product patents, also considering unconventional approaches that might fall within the realm of “business method patents.” Don’t overlook design patents, either. (See PatentlyO’s discussion of Google’s design patent for its homepage layout.) Make sure that your patents tell a story that lines up with your marketing story. Are the unique selling points of your concept also directly in the focus of your patent strategy? Moving beyond patents, there are creative things that can be done with other forms of intellectual assets such as trademarks. Creative trademark applicants have found protection not just for the appearance of the product per se, but for secondary aspects such as the characteristic water spout of Yamaha’s WaveRunner® personal water craft (U.S. Trademark 74321288).

Defensive publications are one of the most-effective and routinely neglected intellectual assets. I discuss them in the post, “Are You Neglecting the Power of Defensive Publications?” If you are like most people and most corporations, the answer to that question is probably yes. Millions of dollars of headaches could frequently be avoided or greatly reduced by routinely publishing defensive disclosures aimed at creating prior art regarding minor improvements or seemingly obvious various to your patented technologies, thereby reducing the risk of others creating a picket fence around your own estate that limits your freedom. Potentially disruptive innovations or feared competitive acquisitions, mergers, or new product efforts can also have some of their sting removed through a creative defensive publication program. It’s not easy in typical corporate cultures, and specific actions must be taken to ensure that targeted disclosures are written by capable people and properly screened and tracked. The review phase is especially important, for once you pull the trigger and release the publication to the world, you can’t pull it back and change your mind, as you can with a patent during the months before it is published. My efforts to implement an aggressive defensive publication program at Kimberly-Clark Corporation were an important part of my work there, in spite of having had the title Corporate Patent Strategist. I actually spent a lot of my time working to advance publications and other non-patent forms of intellectual assets.

A 360 IA framework also demands attention to digital intellectual assets. This especially includes domain names, which many great companies tend to overlook, sometimes until it is too late. When you have some proposed names for a new product or service, go ahead and register the domain names ASAP, long before you settle on details and approach launch. They are cheap–unless you let someone else get them first. There are many free digital intellectual assets to consider as well, including YouTube channel names, Gmail accounts, Facebook names, Twitter accounts, Squidoo lenses, etc. Get these early. You don’t need to use them, but make sure you own them for your brands and emerging product concepts.

The great thing about the 360 IA approach is that it helps you proactively craft an intellectual asset estate with more purpose, more agility, and much lower cost than is possible by relying on patents alone. You can create an estate that enhances your marketing strategy. If you are looking to license or sell your technology and IA portfolio to someone else, you can greatly increase the value by presenting a holistic intellectual asset estate that considers many bases and is aligned with your marketing story. It really gives you a chance to shine and be more effective at lower cost.

Think beyond patents. Think 360 degree IA.

(Note:360 IA workshops and analysis are among the services Innovationedge offers.)

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