To get an intellectual property monopoly you need more than legal knowledge. You and your advisers must understand and apply know-how relating to commercialisation, which American cousins spell commercialization. Here's what we do for clients.
To test client product or service ideas, innovations and inventions my firm uses a lot of different questionnaires, checklists and other template-based document types. We supply them via email. For us and for clients these documents save time and hence money and generally help get better results, faster. For clients it's a convenience to not have to come into our office for a long meeting.
As an example, we supply inventors with an Invention Disclosure Statement to capture information about their idea.
Let's look ahead to commercialisation. This is beyond the idea and R&D stages of an innovation or other subject matter. There's a shift here, from intellectual property protection for an invention or other idea, to its commercialisation and building a business around it.
While there is a broad commercialisation methodology through which each approved new idea should travel, thinking about every idea requires some dedicated and customised idea-specific testing at various stage in its life cycle and in the life cycle of the business that owns or controls it. Thought is needed at a series of "go or no go" decision points in the commercialisation process.
In this type of work templates are not enough. The area is not highly standardised, nor can it be. Each idea and its creators and backers involves a different set of circumstances. Each has different needs and issues. Finance, geography, industry area, profit margins, industry structures, technological rates of change are all among the many variables that must be taken into consideration.
On our side as lawyers and professional advisers, it involves us in thinking deeply about what questions to ask or topics to discuss to help a specific client.
But this type of work is capable of being managed more efficiently despite the variations involved, both on the client side and on the adviser side. Clients big and small can benefit from better management of innovation.
A benefit of better management of innovation is to create know-how and materials that can be re-used. That is precisely what is behind the commercialisation success stories of IBM, 3M, Apple and a host of small Australian companies.
It is well known that research and development work can be a big pit into which businesses can pour money that is never recoverable. There is no question better management is needed. So the question is - How to reduce the risk of investment in innovation? An equally important, and too rarely asked additional question is - How to benefit more from innovation? Some call that benefits realisation.
My career of the last 28 years has involved studying these questions intensively.
There are books and in some universities courses on the subject. They include courses on technology management, entrepreneurship and commercialisation. Each week I receive a pile of email alerts and RSS feeds linked to new academic studies, professional commentary and media discussion useful to the topic.
About a year ago client queries made me reflected on what I knew. Thinking there's got to be a better way to look at IP commercialisation, I built a high level model complete with graphics and a table of tasks that integrates into my firm's suite of templates and defined process.
I now use all this to guide advice in client projects. If interest builds and is sustainable it could frame a book in time to come on the topic which I've titled "intellectual property legal modelling".
For now, in 2011 I'm testing the high level methodology in client projects.
It would be helpful if more clients went to their lawyers and other advisers seeking advice on commercialisation rather than overcoming disputes about them. But that's another story - how clients typically consider lawyers to be people who help start fires or put them out, not advise on how to commercialise fire prevention and fire utilisation. Fire utilisation? Ahh, time to make coffee!
A short note about the illustrations. Each photo is of a device for making coffee. This is what's common to them, what's different? Most have their own exclusive trade mark monopoly rights. Some have monopoly rights of copyright over elements of their design. Some have or have had patent rights. And some still have confidential information or trade secrets that apply to production and other business information. Many are case studies in what can be achieved with intellectual property legal modelling.
Let's now pull all that together. The iPod of coffee is Nespresso. It is owned by Nestle. It has more than 1,700 patents, and sales of $US3.2 billion in 2010.