When building a strong business strategy, one of the most important elements for a company to consider is how to commercialise its intellectual property. Whether the end goal is selling or licensing ideas, the strategy should not only be closely considered at every stage, it should guide the way, from research and ideation all the way to realising a profit. In its best form, this is a process that joins the R&D and IP departments together through close collaboration, allowing them to successfully shape the business’s vision.
In fact, whether a company has an in-house IP department or outsources its IP management, the strength of its strategy can be heavily affected by the degree of effective collaboration between R&D and intellectual property. Unfortunately, it is common to see companies in which these teams work separately. This often results in a lack of strategic patent filing, which consequently hinders the potential value of commercialisation before it even happens. This in turn can have a lasting impact on the strength of the business within its field.
Some companies avoid this issue altogether, while others manage to adjust sub-optimal strategies to make a lasting positive change. In both cases, effective collaboration between IP and R&D departments is achieved through better training and development – these groups cannot work closely if they do not speak each other’s language or share common tools. If a good strategy is one that is already in effect at the thinking stage, then it is critical that R&D groups are able to bring IP knowledge into their work. This reduces the risk of wasting time on the wrong projects and allows for close collaboration with the IP practice in other stages of innovation. As a result, businesses can move towards strategic patent filing, making commercialisation more fruitful. With this in mind, the question of the best way to approach IP training for R&D unit remains. Broadly speaking, the options are to either have training and development led in-house, or to outsource IP training.
With regard to in-house, a company will either need to have an in-house IP department or an in-house learning and development team that understands the intricacies of the IP world and how it intersects with R&D. If it has the former, while the IP unit may excel at its work, there is no guarantee that it will have the time or ability to efficiently train others outside of the department. If a company is leaning towards the latter, it is imperative to consider that training is a fluctuating need in most organisations. In these cases, hiring an internal staff member (and taking on a fixed expense) may not be a cost-effective approach.
While training is an essential part of any group’s success, providing this is seldom a core part of what their business does. In fact, providing training in-house is usually more likely to act as a distraction from key functions and responsibilities. For this reason, outsourcing allows a company to cut out the distractions by bringing in subject matter experts whose core professional function and responsibility is to provide effective training. This translates into having a dedicated and experienced provider closely monitoring the team’s training needs, fulfilling them with the appropriate resources and training plans, and handling all related admin work. Unlike hiring in-house trainers, outsourcing also gives a company unparalleled flexibility. The organisation can invest more or less into the services as its needs change, as there are no additional internal hires and no training projects for the IP unit. What is more, the group will be able to access an impartial, external perspective and thereby gain new insights – perhaps strengthening its future decision making.
Training provides companies with:
- a cost-efficient way to build squads that are able to identify risk and opportunities in the patent landscape of a technology field;
- ease in running preliminary freedom to operate and patentability searches, prior to investing resources into a new project;
- the ability to accelerate their own patent review processes; and
- the ability to identify applications of their technology that they may not have been already aware of, and much more.
Ultimately, outsourcing does not just enable R&D teams to work more closely with their IP counterparts, its also allows them to efficiently orient themselves within the patent landscape. This in turn positions them to innovate more confidently and with less risk. Further, businesses can implement a scalable programme that monitors and responds to their needs, while leveraging the skillsets of expert trainers. With this, companies can expect to see better risk and cost management and more informed responses to opportunities in the innovation landscape.
This article first appeared in IAM. For further information please visit https://www.iam-media.com/corporate/subscribe