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Business Innovations

Intellectual Property is the result of many business innovations and creative thinking.  In addition to the information provided here, I also post regularly to my other blog related to innovation for business.  That blog covers a variety of topics related to identifying, developing and leveraging innovations in your business.   Protecting those innovations is also important, and is discussed on that blog as well as here – as related to Intellectual Property.

I invite you to visit my other blog at http://www.InnovationExplained.com and comment on any of my posts.

Thanks!

Expand your Business by Implementing an Intellectual Property Strategy

Intellectual Property (IP) is important to many businesses.  Properly leveraged intellectual property assets can provide a competitive edge, increase revenue and create a “team environment”.  IP is not limited to “high tech” companies or businesses with large research and development groups.  Most businesses have IP assets that are valuable to the company, such as business procedures (both internal procedures and external procedures), customer lists, company brand/identity, creative ideas developed by company personnel and more.

Take Action. Be proactive in implementing an Intellectual Property Strategy and identifying new innovations.  Do not limit activities to current products and services – look for unmet needs in related markets and develop innovative ideas in those areas as well.  These developments in related markets provide opportunities for product expansion as well as licensing to generate additional revenue.  Also, look for ways to extend existing products or services by identifying future needs of the marketplace.  Evaluate current trends in your market and brainstorm solutions that meet future customer needs as those trends evolve.

Evaluate. Review all innovations to determine how they can support the company’s current and future goals. When a new innovation is identified, perform an initial analysis to identify any potential deadlines regarding protection of that innovation.  Certain types of intellectual property protection have strict filing deadlines and other requirements to preserve your rights.

Existing Assets. Evaluate your existing IP assets to determine whether they are consistent with your current business plan.  As your company’s business objectives change, look for new ways to leverage existing IP assets – through licensing, marketing and so forth.  Take steps to ensure that all of your company’s existing innovations are identified and, if appropriate, properly protected.

Review your business goals today and begin developing an Intellectual Property Strategy that supports and enhances those goals.

Creating an Innovation Culture in your Business

Every person in an organization has the potential to support an innovation strategy.  Regardless of training or job responsibility, everyone is capable of identifying innovative solutions even if they are not responsible for developing that solution.

For example, employees in any department may see inefficiencies in company procedures – such as manufacturing procedures, shipping procedures and so forth.  Correcting these inefficiencies can reduce expenses and improve customer satisfaction.

Create an innovation culture by educating all personnel about the value of innovations to the company.  This innovation culture helps foster a team environment and increases the likelihood of identifying important ideas and suggestions.  Don’t limit innovative activities to people in the “research and development” department – I’ve seen many examples of employees without any technical background identifying significant innovations that result in new product offerings for the company.

Encourage innovations in your business by offering rewards and recognition to company innovators.  Innovation contests, brainstorming sessions and related activities also support an innovation culture in your business.

Innovate Your Business Via Customer Feedback

Many businesses search internally for innovative ideas.  However, plenty of innovative suggestions are available from sources outside the company, such as current customers and prospective customers.

For example, customers may identify problems with an existing product or service.  Solutions to these problems may represent an innovation that improves an existing product, thereby enhancing the product’s success in the marketplace.

Customers may also suggest desired features, enhancements or new products/services.  Implementation of these suggestions can boost sales and expand a company’s product line.

Companies should encourage the gathering of customer feedback through salespeople, installers, customer support personnel, and so forth.  This customer feedback needs to be recorded and communicated to the proper departments and personnel to consider implementation of the feedback.

Customer feedback is easily collected at minimal cost, and provides valuable suggestions directly from the marketplace.

Identify, Track and Evaluate All Innovations

Identifying innovations is an important step in generating, protecting and leveraging intellectual property assets. Innovations can help your business reduce expenses, create a competitive edge in the marketplace and increase revenue.

Innovation Disclosures. To be sure all innovations are identified in your company, implement an innovation disclosure program that allows all personnel to easily submit descriptions of their creative ideas. Each description should include the name of the individuals who developed the innovation, products or services that might benefit from the innovation and what steps have been taken to implement the idea.

Create a Simple System. Create a form or submission system that is fast and easy to use. The initial disclosure form should capture the key information necessary to determine the value of the innovation to the company. If a decision is made to leverage the innovation, additional information can be obtained at that time. A simple submission system will not be viewed as a burden by company personnel, and will likely result in documentation of more creative thoughts.

Tracking Innovations. Once submitted, use a tracking system to monitor the status of every disclosure submitted. This tracking system should identify deadlines, upcoming public disclosures and products or services that might benefit from the innovation.

Evaluation. Create a review committee to regularly evaluate disclosures and determine whether the innovation can be leveraged to advance the company’s business objectives. This review committee should include personnel from different groups within the company, such as research and development, marketing and manufacturing. These groups provide diverse views of how to best leverage innovations in the company in a manner that is consistent with the company’s goals.

Encourage all personnel to submit their creative thoughts for evaluation – and reward those activities. Every person in your company is a potential innovator. Start capturing and leveraging those creative ideas today to expand your business and build your intellectual property assets.

Encourage Innovation throughout your Company

Innovations are important to many businesses.  Innovations often solve problems or improve an existing product or service.  Innovations can also improve internal business procedures.  Every individual, regardless of job function or training, is capable of identifying solutions – even if implementation or development of the solution is not their primary job function.

For example, company salespeople often receive feedback from customers and potential customers.  This feedback may include problems or missing features with existing products.  A salesperson must understand the importance of reporting that feedback to the company.  Additionally, the salesperson should be encouraged to communicate their own ideas or suggestions for solving a problem or improving products/services.

Educate All Personnel. Educating all personnel about the value of innovations to the company fosters a “team environment” and increases the likelihood of identifying important ideas and suggestions.  Also, encouraging different groups within the company to work together to create and implement new ideas strengthens the business. For example, if a customer service representative learns of a desired feature from a customer, that information is provided to the Product Development Group, which develops the new feature.  The Marketing Department then promotes this new feature to increase sales and provide increased value to existing customers.  Thus, several groups within the company can work together to leverage innovations.

Look Everywhere. Innovations are not limited to the products or services created by the company. Internal procedures, such as manufacturing processes, marketing procedures and sales techniques are subject to innovation.  An innovative idea in the company’s manufacturing process can save money, increase quality and improve efficiency.  Thus, it is important to teach personnel about innovation in all areas of the business.

Companies can encourage creative thinking by offering recognition and rewards to company innovators.  Brainstorming sessions, innovation contests, employee bonuses and related activities are important aspects of a successful Intellectual Property Strategy.

Does your Business have Undiscovered Innovations?

Do you have a system for identifying ALL innovations and intellectual property developed in your company?

I have worked with many companies that did not have a well-defined approach to identifying innovations or intellectual property developed within their business. When I am working with those companies, a top priority is creating a system to identify and record all innovations developed throughout the company.

To ensure that your business is identifying all innovations and intellectual property, consider the following:

  • Every person in your business is a Potential Innovator. Many companies assume that only the “scientists” or employees in the Research and Development Group are innovators. If you follow this approach, you will likely miss out on many valuable innovations. I have lost count of the number of times that a valuable innovation was developed by an employee who was not involved with product design or product development. I have worked with inventors who are shipping clerks, administrative assistants, sales representatives and marketing managers. Every person in your business should be treated as a potential innovator.
  • Implement a system to discover ALL innovations. Create a system that encourages all employees to submit their innovative ideas for company review. Offer rewards and incentives to those innovators. Your system should accurately track all innovations submitted and include a periodic review process to evaluate those innovations.
  • Teach ALL employees the importance of Identifying Innovations. Provide a training seminar, recorded video presentation, or other educational material for all employees to describe the process for identifying innovations. Explain how each employee can submit innovations for company review and the innovation reward program offered by the company. Also, emphasize the importance of innovation to the company’s future growth.

These techniques are useful in businesses of all sizes and in any industry. If your company does not already have a system for identifying all innovations, consider implementing an Innovation Action Plan today.

Types of Intellectual Property and How they Fit Into an IP Strategy

When developing an Intellectual Property Strategy, it is important to understand the different types of intellectual property (IP) assets and how they are applied to business activities.  This article provides an overview of several types of IP assets.
  1. Copyright – Provides a legal right to exclude others from publishing, selling, or distributing a literary or artistic work.  Copyright protection applies to specific expressions of an idea, but not to abstract ideas themselves.  Consider copyright protection for books, articles, manuscripts, music, artwork and computer software.
  2. Trademark – Applies to a word, design, logo, picture, slogan, or other symbol used to identify a source of products or services.  A trademark is typically identified using a TM, SM, or ® notation.  The ® symbol designates a Federally Registered Trademark (registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office).  Companies commonly use trademarks to protect their company name, advertising slogans and corporate logos/identifiers.
  3. Trade Secret – Business information that is subject to reasonable efforts by the business to keep the information confidential.  This information has value to the company because it is not generally known in the marketplace.  Examples include recipes, formulas, customer lists, marketing plans and manufacturing techniques.
  4. Patent – A grant by the government to an inventor.  The inventor has the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention.  Three general types of patents include utility patents, design patents and plant patents.  Utility patents are useful in protecting the functional aspects of a product or process.  A design patent protects the ornamental design of a product.  Plant patents protect new varieties of living plants.  Consider patent protection for  products, methods, computer software, manufacturing processes and chemical compounds.

These different types of intellectual property offer varying levels of protection and distinct procedures necessary to protect the IP asset.  A successful Intellectual Property Strategy considers each type of IP asset and leverages IP assets that are appropriate for the particular company and consistent with the company’s goals.

Business Growth through an Intellectual Property Strategy

Intellectual Property (IP) assets are important to many companies. Proper leverage of IP assets can provide a competitive edge, increase revenue, extend product lines and create an “innovation culture” within the company.

Many people mistakenly believe that innovations are limited to “high tech” companies or those with large research and development groups. However, most companies have IP assets, such as business procedures (both internal and external procedures), customer lists, company brand/identity, innovations developed by company employees and more.

Regardless of the industry or the size of your company, an Intellectual Property Strategy can strengthen your business. It’s never too early to start thinking about this strategy – early planning can accelerate business growth and reduce the risk of future problems.

1. Understand the Different Types of IP Assets. An important first step in developing an IP strategy is to understand the different types of IP assets and how they can strengthen business activities. Copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets are common IP assets. These assets have different levels of protection and varying procedures necessary to protect the asset.

2. Identify Types of IP Appropriate for your Business. A successful Intellectual Property Strategy considers the various types of intellectual property that are a logical “fit” for the company and the business objectives.

3. Define IP Goals. Define goals that support your business objectives. An IP Strategy can support business goals by increasing revenue, creating a competitive advantage, attracting capital investments and positioning the business as an “innovator”.

4. Protect Confidential Information. Every business has confidential and proprietary information that requires proper management. Diligent use of a written Confidentiality/Proprietary Information Agreement is an important method of protecting confidential and proprietary information. This agreement is signed by everyone who has access to confidential/proprietary information, such as employees, contractors, vendors, advisors, investors, board members and prospective customers.

5. Encourage Innovation. Many businesses assume that innovative activities are limited to the research and development group or to personnel with advanced scientific degrees. Although these groups and individuals are important to an IP Strategy, every person in an organization is a potential innovator. Innovations often solve problems or improve an existing product or service. Everyone is capable of identifying solutions, even if developing the solution is not part of their job function.

6. Manage All Innovations. Identifying innovation is a critical step in creating and leveraging intellectual property assets. Implement an innovation disclosure program that allows all personnel to easily prepare and submit descriptions of their innovations. Once submitted, a tracking system monitors the status of every innovation disclosure. This tracking system should identify deadlines, upcoming public disclosures and other activities related to the innovation.

7. Take Action. Be proactive in implementing an IP Strategy and identifying new innovations. Do not limit activities to current products and services – look for unmet needs in related markets and create intellectual property in those areas.

Identifying, developing and leveraging IP assets takes time. Review your current business goals and begin developing an IP Strategy that supports and enhances those goals.

Intellectual Property Strategy Tips

An effective Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy can support your business by increasing revenue, providing a competitive advantage in your market and increasing valuation. An Intellectual Property Strategy can also position your business as an “innovator”, which can attract customers, top employees and top contractors.

Based on your business objectives (both short-term and long-term), develop an IP Strategy that specifically addresses those business objectives. If a business objective is to expand into a new market, your IP Strategy may include looking for unmet needs in that new market and developing innovative solutions in meet those needs. Protecting those innovations will strengthen your position in that new market.

To generate additional business revenue, consider licensing existing Intellectual Property or creating new Intellectual Property assets that can be licensed or sold. Consider the use of brainstorming sessions and innovation contests to create new Intellectual Property assets within your company. Define a system for identifying, documenting and evaluating all innovations developed during these brainstorming sessions and innovation contests.

Review your IP Strategy regularly to evaluate the success of the strategy and to be certain the strategy remains consistent with your business objectives.

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