How can IP contribute to R&D?
By Mamata Saha
While it’s a given that IP and R&D are two distinct departments, what people may not know is that there’s a connection between the two. How? For a company to successfully formulate its goals for product creation, the R&D department must work in harmony with the IP department. In other words, product technology can be developed with minimal issues if its phases include easy access to IP. If researchers are aware of the patents for similar products that already exist, have been filed with the patent office, or will be filed, it gives them flexibility and freedom. To do what? To do away with the technology altogether or to channel their research efforts in a more meaningful direction, one that’s likely to fetch the results they’re looking for.
Significance of IP protection
Generally, companies look to IP as a way of protecting their idea or invention only once they are developed through extensive research and development. However, if IP is incorporated into the research process, it might help organizations narrow down on specific work areas that are lucrative in terms of patentability and can help them capture and retain a portion of the market. Additionally, companies may also secure ROI on their investment because their IP strategy will help them identify patents and patent applications that bear similarities to their idea. In doing so, their ideas will have fewer chances of being non-patentable and will end up being more commercially viable.
Barriers to combining IP and R&D
As we’ve stressed early on, the growth and advancement of a company depend on the harmonious alliance of IP and R&D. However, the two departments find it challenging to work together for the following reasons:
- There might be a clash as far as the intentions of the two departments are concerned. For R&D, it’s zeroing in on the ideal solution for any technical problems, and for IP, it’s the legal complications that are deliberated. Working collaboratively means finding a common ground to interact and exchange information, not spending time trying to prove whose intent is superior.
- Every department uses a bunch of words specific to their field (or jargon) that aren’t followed by other departments. The same goes for R&D and IP. Working well together means finding a way to communicate using universally comprehensible words.
- Preconceived notions also don’t help two parties to work together. R&D and IP are no exceptions. Realizing that both departments and their contributions are equally significant is crucial for them to work jointly to take the innovation process forward.
The union of IP and R&D: How to make it work
The ideal scenario is to have one department comprising IP and R&D as opposed to two separate departments. That way, people in both fields will be compelled to communicate in order to work together. Besides legally safeguarding a multitude of inventions and technologies, the IP team will have the advantage of knowing the focus and extent of research and any ideas that come up from time to time. But to be able to work together, mutual trust and respect are imperative, which may be hard to come by. If an idea is shut down by the IP team for its legal ramifications, it might be misconstrued by the R&D team and viewed as a sign of disrespect and unwillingness to acknowledge their views. Considering that the protection of IP rights is crucial for innovation on a larger scale, we can use the following ways to ensure that IP is built into the R&D process:
- Invent a new product:
In terms of product development, the R&D team needs to include the IP team from the very beginning. IP analytics data on the product and the technology involved needs to be shared with the research team for them to know the technology status. It’s critical to include the IP team as part of the product development lifecycle so that they can make quick decisions on whether the product’s a no-go or whether enhancements can give it a whole other form. New inventions must be subjected to novelty and patentability checks by the IP team so that the R&D team can concentrate on creating a product that doesn’t run into legal hassles involving patent infringement.
- Conduct FTO searches:
FTO (Freedom to Operate) searches are crucial before any product is introduced into the market so as not to invite any unnecessary costs. Here, it’s important to note that the data from IP analytics can be used to determine the threats of infringement because they’ll reveal the kind of risks you may encounter when launching the product in a specific geographical area.
- Assess IP action plans of competitors
The IP team should make the analysis of the IP action plans of competitor firms a priority. It’ll not only help in acquiring insights into the R&D efforts and innovation path of those organizations but also ensure that your organization’s R&D efforts stand out. Additionally, the assessment of IP plans can help you acquire alerts of competitor organizations’ activities worldwide, and help your company decide the course of their R&D efforts.
- Focus on commercialization and monetization
Assessment of IP analytics reports or action plans can throw light on which technologies to choose for maximization of profits. Moreover, it can highlight which technical areas are emerging, are commercially viable, and are part of your organization’s technology portfolio. If it’s already a part of your portfolio, imagine the revenue you can earn through licensing!
- Get professional training
To help IP researchers and inventors gain more knowledge on enhancing their research work or making relevant changes to their inventions that resemble existing patents, companies could conduct knowledge-acquisition sessions for them. The R&D team can also be trained on acquiring patent alerts so that they’re aware of the kind of patents existing in the market.
- Safeguard inventions
If IP action plans periodically track and assess technical patent disclosures, the state of technological inventions can be gauged. In turn, it’ll help the R&D team to work on modifying their innovations so that they have an element of novelty and uniqueness in them. Also, this could trigger more patent applications leading to a higher level of patent protection.
- Help R&D to draft technical documents
Since the IP team has knowledge of the jargon used and followed in their field, they can use it to draft technical documents or product manuals, thus helping the R&D team wherever there’s a lack of understanding of specific terms and expressions.
Relecura’s contribution to IP and R&D
Relecura, an organization at the top of its game in AI, specializes in IP and innovation-related tools dealing with all aspects of the innovation life cycle. In addition to the above, it addresses any patent-related issues that might crop up along the way. Considering the points shared earlier, on the measures that can be taken to integrate IP and R&D, we’d like to highlight some of those areas where our tools would be an ideal application.
For instance, when we refer to novelty and patentability checks, Relecura’s Novelty, an AI-based invention analysis tool, is perfect to determine the non-obviousness of an idea and whether it’s worthy of being patented. All you need is to insert a short text of your idea or a few related keywords and the tool generates a graphical summary of it, followed by relevant patent and non-patent documents. Should you have a patent number, you can also use it to run a prior art or invalidity search. Likewise, the tool comes in handy when you want to run an FTO search as well. Here’s an image of the Novelty tool.
While discussing ways to integrate IP with R&D, we covered the fact that IP teams should analyze the IP action plans of their competitors to learn more about their R&D process. Interestingly, this is among the multiple functions that Relecura’s TechTracker, an AI-driven tool, performs! In other words, if you wish to gather competitive intelligence and compare your competitors’ technologies with yours, this is what you need! We can also add a generation of technology trends and emerging technologies to its gamut of functions.
As evident from Fig 3, competitor analysis would be ideal for you to find out what your competitors are doing. You can add a total of three names and generate the report once you add the timeline.
Last but not least, while having individual tools pertaining to a specific function is apt, a tool that combines several functions and shares information for each from the same interface, works better in terms of access and cost. Relecura’s Enterprise Web Tool is a platform where all of the functions shared earlier can be performed with a few clicks. Here’s an image:
IP and innovation tools aside, the key to combining the IP and R&D teams is to include IP analytics data and action plans as a core component of R&D. It’s known that the two departments work separately because they have different roles to play in an organization. Nonetheless, given that both work for the organization and its goals, the patent acquisition process will require both to collaborate and work in harmony at some point.