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A Robust Innovation Team Is Essential for Enterprise Success — Here's Why and How to Build One Discover how to create an outstanding innovation team. Dive into engaging diverse talents, nurturing a culture of collaboration and mastering patent strategy to turn your brilliant ideas into successful, protected innovations.

By Thomas Franklin Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Engaging the right minds
  • Fostering a dynamic innovation environment
  • The vetting process
  • Patent prosecution with patent counsel
  • Strategic patent portfolio management
  • Post-issuance responsibilities

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

BCG reveals 79% of enterprises are ramping up innovation, with over 40% increasing their budget this year. It's clear: Businesses are investing heavily in tools and talent to transform ideas into reality.

But while innovation teams are key to patent success, there's no universal blueprint. This article dives into tailoring the perfect approach for your company's unique patent journey.

Engaging the right minds

To drive innovation, it's essential to tap into the diverse expertise within an organization. A successful patent innovation team thrives on a flat management structure that encourages collaboration. Key departments to engage include:

  • R&D: Pioneering scientific exploration and discovery

  • Engineering: Steering product development and refining processes

  • Software development: Advancing tech through innovative algorithms

  • Marketing: Offering market insights to align patents with consumer needs

  • Inhouse patent committee: Evaluating, prioritizing and protecting innovative ideas within an organization.

By engaging multiple departments, ideas flourish from diverse perspectives. This collective approach leverages the strengths of varied teams. However, expertise in their fields doesn't equate to patent proficiency. To bridge this gap, companies can offer training and courses, ensuring seamless and efficient collaboration.

Related: Ditch Those Silos! 3 Ways to Embrace Cross-Departmental Relationships

Fostering a dynamic innovation environment

Foster innovation by creating a judgment-free zone for idea sharing. To advance strategic creativity, companies should:

  • Offer platforms for employees to pitch their ideas confidently; however, avoid using spreadsheets to capture ideas.

  • Train teams to evaluate ideas' feasibility, uniqueness and market potential.

  • Utilize modern patent tools to mine and categorize innovations, ensuring only the most valuable are considered for patenting.

  • Set up a patent committee if you run a large enterprise. Partner with an external patent counsel if you're an SME. Patent experts guide you through legal nuances and prioritize patents with a higher chance of approval.

The vetting process

Sifting through the innovation stash is crucial. Patents demand a discerning eye — it's about choosing wisely.

Collaboration is key in pinpointing the standouts. Engineers and scientists assess technical viability, business minds forecast market success, and patent pros anticipate legal hurdles.

In large firms, patent committees serve as the quality control, wielding stringent criteria to invest time and resources effectively. SMEs prefer to engage an outside patent counsel.

With the right tools, teams flourish. Idea and patent management software become a linchpin, providing a collaborative platform akin to Google Docs, honing in on the most viable ideas.

Patent prosecution with patent counsel

Strategizing for patent prosecution is more than just filing applications ... it's about understanding the legal nuances with seasoned patent attorneys at your side.

Attorneys experienced in prosecuting patents within a specific technology sector, boasting a history of successful outcomes at the patent office, and maintaining transparency throughout the process, are crucial for the fruitful return on IP investments.

A solid strategy enhances the odds of success, tackles cost control and ensures efficient use of resources by drawing on predictions for patent success rates and costs, and examiners' tendencies. Such insights are available within modern patent management software solutions.

Additionally, you'll need staff or a dedicated point person for regular interactions with counsel, handling the details — signatures, assignments, declarations — and the myriad questions that arise, like dealing with prior art, provisional applications and international rights.

Related: Unlocking the Market Potential of Your Patent Portfolio — A Guide for Entrepreneurs

Strategic patent portfolio management

Effective patent portfolio management is key to keeping a company's intellectual property in line with its business strategy.

It's important to regularly check the patent list to drop patents that are no longer useful or relevant to the industry to save money. Some ideas may encounter substantial resistance from patent offices or become less relevant over time.

An adept patent portfolio manager makes a big difference here. They need a mix of skills: understanding technology, knowing the legal side of patents, being detail-oriented, good at talking to people, and making smart business decisions.

They'll work closely with the people who create the inventions to make sure good ideas are protected by patents. They also have to be organized to handle lots of patents without mistakes, communicate well within the company and make sure the patent plans make financial sense.

Finding the best person for this job might not be easy, but sometimes, the ideal candidate is already working with the company or as an outside lawyer who can be recruited into your enterprise.

Post-issuance responsibilities

After a patent is granted, it enters a maintenance phase, where periodic fees are necessary to keep the patent active. This step requires diligent oversight to ensure timely payments, a task that can be streamlined with the help of various services and platforms, especially when dealing with multiple countries.

In the USA, patent maintenance fees are due at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years post-grant. In China, patent annuities are due two months after the grant and then annually. Both allow a six-month grace period for late payment but with a surcharge.

Besides maintaining worthy patents, to unlock the full potential of your patent portfolio, it's essential to understand each patent's market potential. Patents are assets that can secure investment, provide a competitive edge and add value in business deals, litigation or M&A activities.

The aim is to strategically utilize patents beyond their legal standing to bolster business expansion and gain a competitive advantage, with a skilled patent portfolio manager being key to this strategy.

In conclusion, building a robust innovation team is essential for enterprise success. It involves engaging diverse expertise from R&D, engineering, marketing and in-house counsel or patent committee, underpinned by training and modern patent tools. A culture of open idea-sharing is pivotal.

Linus Pauling, a renowned scientist, aptly said, "The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas." This underscores the importance of diverse innovation inputs. A structured innovation program can be the bridge between the innovators and successful patent creation, transforming a multitude of ideas into valuable, protected innovations.

Related: 5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Patent Portfolio Manager

Thomas Franklin

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of Triangle IP

Thomas Franklin, Partner at Mughal IP, Founder at Triangle IP, IAM Top 300 Patent Strategist, Colorado Super Lawyer 2021, People's Choice for Best IP Non-Litigator on Barrister's Best list, Colorado

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