Flow of IP Knowledge & Patent Intelligence Through a Organization

The European Patent Academy did an insightful presentation Patent & Innovation Management at Istanbul at the start of this month. While the presentation covers a wider topic, a single slide on the innovation process stands out to demonstrate the importance of having a robust IP knowledge management system in place to ensure the flow of information along side the process.

The innovation process involves:

Creation of Ideas >> Project Design >> Project Development >> Production >> Market Launch

In any innovation driven business each of these areas can be further broken down into multiple activities which revolve around the development and management of intellectual property including activities like filing for new patents, protecting IP assets, maneuvering through competitors patents, strategic product development and more. However the value of right information is critical throughout the cycle. IP knowledge and intelligence functions as a support pillar right from creation of ideas to marketing the product and right through the product life-cycle.

The entire innovation process is supported and seen through by multiple departments and functions within the company. Its a combined effort of research, thinkers, designers, developers, legal professionals, finance, marketing, strategy and others and each of them must rely on IP intelligence to guide them through their roles in the innovation process. Having an in-house IP Knowledge Management platform helps since IP knowledge, access to it and ability to use it well is a common requirement across each department who has a role in this process. With such systems a company can offer a common knowledge platform that can be leveraged across the board. Along with patents even scientific literature like journals and other publications can be processed to provide intelligence on markets, customers, technology, processes, business strategies, risks, opportunities and competitors which can aid everyone involved in the innovation process.

The efficient flow of IP data and intelligence within an organization can fuel better innovation and translate into more gains for businesses

Incremental Innovation – Pushing The Boundaries Of Product Development

We often look at research and development as a function which relies on very extensive knowledge of what exists around us and then looking for ways to improve on it and take it up a notch. This is echoed in a brilliant post I recently read by Gord Hotchkiss titled “Predicting Innovation” where he says:

Great innovation builds on what comes before it. This lines up with something I have long believed – there is no such thing as revolutionary innovation, just a series of incremental evolutionary innovations that at some point reaches a tipping point and appears to be revolutionary. I’ve used the iPhone as an example before.

Great Innovation does not require people to make radical changes in beliefs or behavior – Again, with incremental innovation, the market must understand the innovation and relate it to something they’re used to. The iPhone made smartphones smarter, more fun and more useful. It didn’t require us to make a great leap of

The same applies to just about any industry whether pharmaceuticals, healthcare, automobiles or technology. Every breakthrough product has been a result of extensive research and understanding of what has already been developed by others in the field and making incremental improvements which can often translate into a considerable jump forward.

Acquiring and managing information and knowledge is a large part of the incremental innovation process and having the right systems in place can support this process to great degree. Access to the right technical papers, patent information and related data open up avenues to increase the knowledge base one has to work with. And that leads to a common problem today – Information overload. How you manage all the information, create data points from assimilation of the information then bring out insights is as important as having access to the information.

Therein comes the need for knowledge mining solutions that help you unlock insights from the masses of data with ease and efficiency and further also help in overall managing the information so that you can quickly refer back to it at a later period of time. We recently referred to such a solution as – intellectual property knowledge management solutions in our Enterprise Edition Solution Brief. The  ‘flow of’ insights from IP data is critical to the R&D process is setting up the right processes with a robust system in place can help them focus more on the most important component of incremental innovation mentioned above- “Improving On It”. This is after all where abilities to make a difference come in and innovative skills are rewarded.

Improving on what is known is where the focus of product development should be instead of re-inventing what is already known. With the help of the right knowledge solutions which can accelerate the information management process, product development teams know where the boundaries are and can redirect their energies towards pushing these boundaries forward. Isn’t that the key to breakthrough developments?

Delivering Key IP Asset Intelligence To Technology Management Decision Makers

Management of technology and research relies on being able to make the right decisions at the right time which in turn depends on the quick availability of reliable information. Whether deciding on strategy like what direction the innovation and research arm of the business should take and which are the areas the competition has left room for improvement on to tackling issues like finding the right people to develop a certain technology or to license a component from, the management responsible for products, research, development and technology need a constant birds eye view of not just their own IP assets but also a clear perspective of the competition and the wider technology landscape to steer the business in the right direction. This landscape however is constantly evolving with others in the market also on a quest to innovate and develop and protect their intellectual property along the way creating the need to have access to fresh information promptly when needed.

From what we have observed, the common challenges that companies face with developing a robust process of IP information delivery to management for decision making are:

  • They have access to a large amount of patent data in the form of database subscriptions, downloaded documents and online sources but it’s unorganized and every time they need to analyze the data for a new question or requirement management asks, they need to search through the data, gather the relevant documents and pages and then locate what they are looking for which is a long process that is often repeated.
  • They have a lot of patent data related to their technologies or domain but find it challenging consolidating all the right data so they can start analyzing it and present only what is relevant to the managements questions.
  • They find what they are looking for after analyzing the patent sets required to answer questions and they understand the answers but find it challenging to present it quickly and simply to management in a form that they can understand as clearly. They find communicating what they see within the patent sets to others difficult.
  • The time taken to process all the data and generate answers is often too long which is why they prefer going by existing reports or previous information which may be available online through searching websites rather than generating fresh reports from the latest databases on demand.

For example, let’s assume a pharmaceutical company has had plans for quite some time to develop a certain drug for a specific heart disease made some breakthrough but came across delays in the process of testing and clinical trials. In the few years the drug was under testing and not ready to hit the market there is a possibility that others may have been pursuing a similar direction of research and new patents may have come into force since creating hurdles for the launch of the drug. The management can’t rely solely on what they knew at the time they started the research. They need quick access to fresh information to see the road ahead at every stage of the technology management process and make decisions. That view of the technology landscape they need exists in patent databases but needs text mining and analytic support to bring out that clear perspective needed for them to make those decisions.

At any given time in the process, management may need some specific questions they need answers to quickly to make their call. What are the competing technologies in their domain? How many other businesses are interested in this technology? Which markets already have players for this technology and where are the gaps that can be filled? Where are the potential licensing opportunities for what we develop? Who are the researchers or innovators who can help us develop what we are looking to create? These are just some examples of questions management need answers for and turn to their patent information to have them answered. Through a clear cut process of:

Search & Retrieval > Clustering > Data Clean Up > Analysis > Report Generation

Vast amounts of patent data can be mined, queried and analyzed and converted into precise visual reports that are easy to comprehend in a matter of minutes. Patent analysis software which can process this allows for quick process of intelligence delivery to upper management whenever needed. As useful as the process is to management, it can prove just as valuable to scientists, innovators researchers and product development teams to present their suggestions and cases for certain decisions and being able to back it up with visual presentations and valuable insights gathered from the data.

Equipped with the right software, the challenges of being able to generate and deliver decision making intelligence to management as well as the technology and research teams can easily be overcome. We all tend to rely on what is easily available. Once the right information is made easy and available, relying on fresh reports and insights becomes a regular practice and the technology management function becomes that much more effective.

Intelligent Product Development Tip – Is Your R&D Department Re-Inventing The Wheel?

You could say that the world is just about starting to recover from an economic depression that didn’t spare any economy but it’s left a lot of organizational changes in it’s wake which are not likely to change any time soon. One of these several changes is the way in which businesses view innovation and R&D departments as major cost centers rather than the department which needs to be constantly funded without restrictions to come up with the “next big thing since sliced bread” for them. At the peak recession stages product development and innovation departments across several companies took a severe beating with cost cuts and a lot of their projects being kept on hold or even scrapped till things start looking up again. It’s a natural economic phenomenon with innovation, research and development. In boom times when everything is great, businesses applaud them for their role and encourage them to keep innovating. When things go downward, they are singled out as the department which is gobbling up cash reserves and management has them in their sights. Whether you refer to it as innovation, product development or research and development, it has been the cornerstone of success for most of great organizations and they know they can’t completely axe it if they are to have any chance of being anything other than follower (riding on others innovations). Yet, with all that’s happened during the economic meltdown, even when things have recovered, it’s evident that businesses will continue to keep a close eye on every dollar invested and hold every department more accountable for their actions.

When it comes to R&D or product innovation, that translates to continuing to build on a businesses IP and product portfolio in the most cost effective manner possible. It’s clear that there will be very no room for error and very little leeway with budgets. If a business is investing R&D funds towards innovation and invention, then they will assume you have covered all bases and ensuring you are truly working on IP that they can bank on and not simply chasing an idea which a rival has claims on already. It doesn’t pay to re-invent the wheel. As obvious a statement as it may seem, as a product development manager ensuring the intellectual property that you’re working to develop is not something a competitor or someone else has conquered is easier said than done. It’s a challenging stage of the process and perhaps one that can cause the most damage if not done thoroughly. Imagine if Intel Corp were to spend the next 10 years developing what their believed would be the fastest silicon based processor to hit the market till date while rival AMD has already come up with an alternate to silicon which would be light years ahead. It’s unlikely the management would bring out the champagne considering the time, money and effort they spent to come up with something which barely even qualifies for second place. Yet, this is a scenario that is highly probable. R&D can be so caught up in what they are doing and how it could change the future, they forget to look behind and study the competition.Patents have been the best indicators of what is going on in the industry and who those competitors are and needless to say, every product development and R&D person should be actively keeping a pulse on patents within their space. There is a mindset, albeit a gradually decreasing one, that patents are a “legal thing” which should be left to the IP lawyers and corporate office to deal with and in that mindset, it’s easy to miss out on just how much R&D can take from it if seen in the right perspective. It’s this right perspective that patent analysis software like Patent iNSIGHT Pro help R&D professionals and product development managers with.

To do all the groundwork and cover all bases before going head on into the development process, if one looks through a patent database and studies patents individually like paintings hanging on the walls of a museum, there is only so much one can gather from it. It’s when you are able to look at a group of patents within your domain, put together with all their relationships highlighted do you really get to see the complete picture and make sense of where your development work stands in the overall scheme of things. Backward citations help understand what the core innovations are and forward citations provide insights into how those core innovations have been applied in different areas of research. Patent analysis of technologies can help reveal where your R&D maybe crossing paths with someone else’s work and where there is a gap which your team may be able to fill and so much more. Most importantly patent analysis helps R&D to leverage patent data in a form that is relevant to them and not from the viewpoint of a legal professional. Who are the other people in the same innovation space? What are they working on? Are there any overlaps? What can I learn from others who have worked in this space? Where are the gaps for improving on existing patents? Who do I need to connect with to source a certain component? These are just a handful of questions that patents can answer before and during the R&D process given the right perspectives. It’s some of these answers that can prevent massive mistakes like ending up doing research on something which exists or moving in a direction which has a barrier that could have been avoided if R&D was better informed. It’s the right questions and being able to get them answered in time which are necessary to get things right the first time.

All said and done, innovation and product development is, and will continue to be, an essential part of moving forward in this world. It’s possible for business operations and R&D to meet halfway and continue moving ahead while working more intelligently and keeping costs in check. We just have to be better informed and ensure no one is re-inventing the wheel.