Quick question.  Why did your company file its most recent patent application?  Do you know the reason your organization decided to spend $10,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 on 1 patent?  If you work in the average organization, your answer might be:

1.)  Because it’s what we do.  When we invent something, we file a patent application;

2.)  Because my job performance is based on filing a lot of patent applications; or

3.)  I don’t know.

What if I asked you: what’s the business goal behind your latest patent?  Most companies don’t have an answer for that one.

Tell me what the business goal is behind this headline: Apple Awarded Patent on Slide-to-Unlock; All Android Phones Infringe.  Do you think the team in charge of protecting Apple’s IP could tell me what the business goal is behind Patent No. 8,046,721 for ‘Unlocking a Device by Performing Gestures on an Unlock Image?  I’m willing to bet my law degree that they do and that this patent is considered highly valuable within the walls of Apple.  Not because it’s one more patent in their portfolio, but because this patent meets a stated business objective, make it really hard for Google to do business in the smart phone universe.

In order to have IP success, your organization must understand why it’s pursuing intellectual property protection.  The key to figuring out ‘why’ is by knowing what’s important to the business, what are the business goals and objectives.  Once you know what’s important, then it’s the job of the IP Manager to make sure that the intellectual property is in-line with those goals and objectives and consistently convey that message to the company’s management team.   You need to demonstrate that the company’s IP has value, and that value lies in its ability to help the company meet its goals and objectives.

If you have to tell the management team why IP is important, you first need to ask them what’s important to them.  What are their plans and goals?  Once you know the business strategy, your IP strategy must mirror the business strategy.

Let me ask my first question again.  Why did your company file its most recent patent application?  The answer should sound something like ‘because it helps us achieve this goal and that objective.’  The ‘why’ will be different for every organization, i.e., litigation, licensing, because everyone else in the industry has patents.  Whatever the reason, you need to know why it’s important to your business.

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