Patents have been associated with protecting products and research from competition and others in the field who may benefit directly from your IP. It was for the longest time linked to keeping the competition away and not for colluding with them but that view has expanded. Today, collaboration is increasingly becoming the preferred path to innovation for many companies. As R&D teams seek external teams to collaborate in ongoing research, patents are key to protecting new IP and advancing collaborative innovation.
For instance, Pharamalicensing.com which aids open innovation in the life sciences stream carried the following post for a licensing partner:
“US based researchers are seeking licensing partners for the further development of their antigen which is currently being tested for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
Our US based clients are developing an antigen intended for the treatment of ovarian cancer by DC vaccine production. The antigen which is currently in preparation for Phase I trials can be used in any type of technology platform (e.g. recombinant vectors, liposomes, gene therapy). The antigen may be used for the creation of a therapeutic vaccine.”
Whether it’s licensing certain components or partnering to develop something completely new, the joint approach makes business sense in a number of situations and it’s not just restricted to pharma. Out-licensing and In-licensing are no longer the only approaches to open-innovation. Crowdsourcing is a relatively new trend which involves companies announcing their R&D needs as problems or challenges and offering a reward anyone who can solve them. Examples of online services that coordinate such needs are innocentive.com andtekscout.com.
Bigger companies with large patent portfolio are going a step ahead by forgoing short term licensing benefits and opening up access to their patent portfolios in hope of increasing the market size of the end products and thereby benefiting all parties. A recent article onChinaIPMagazine covering IBMs successful IP strategy made a similar point when they said:
“Mr. Saber also said, “IBM has also been a leader in supporting open source and collaborative innovation, IBM has pledged hundreds of patents in support of open source, healthcare and education initiatives. In July 2007, IBM also announced granting access to its entire patent portfolio of 40,000 patents in support of more than 150 standards designed to make software interoperable under certain conditions. This is a prime example of using our IP assets for the collective good.
In summary, IBM’s IP Law department has been leading the discussion worldwide in shaping the IP community’s thinking about the business value of patents and by demonstrating that patents needn’t be a blunt instrument of litigation, but an effective tool for supporting and encouraging collaboration, open standards and innovation.”
So how can you leverage IP to guide your R&D collaboration strategy ? Studying IP portfolios of other companies in the area of research and further analyzing such patent data in context of the market intelligence can be instrumental in not just deciding whether to pursue a collaborative approach for any project but also in bringing about the right partnerships. So, once the right set of patents within the area of interest have been identified, they can be analyzed in sets and compared to reveal who the best options to license from might be, who are the innovators with the right amount of experience for a particular initiative, which companies may be keen on collaborating within the space and which are the other areas of research which may inter-twine and help increase the company IP portfolio value. These answers can help develop new products faster, get them out to market quicker or facilitate building newer IP to complement an existing portfolio.
Such processes usually require speeding up the task of patent analysis and companies soon realize that the “Search > Narrow-down > Read” approach may not work when scouting for collaborators or licensees. Analysis solutions as a result have become a necessary tool in helping companies quickly quantify research and come up with critical insights that also serves to give them an edge when negotiating a partnership deal with external partners .
As, more and more companies across the board come to a juncture where they have to decide between a completely proprietary path or go the collaborative way on a certain initiative, IP analyses and insights will go a long way in driving the right partnerships and paving the road to collaborative innovation.