Friday, October 30, 2009

Creating Intellectual Property & Projects

Creating intellectual property (IP) is the key for success in technology industry. While this statement is taken as to the heart and is preached like a Bible, but not all companies follow it to the core. Even the greatest technology gaints - Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, GE, EMC, Intel, have pockets of IP inefficiency - where several million dollars are spent on R&D projects which does not produce enough IP.

It is not that people in those projects did not work or were not creative. Engineers who work on R&D projects are inherently creative (though few would admit to be creative), but people in these projects are worried about operational issues such as deadlines, features, project costs, staffing, talent management etc and they ignore protection of intellectual property that they created or they have failed to create substantial IP.

Projects that have spent several million dollars and spread over an year must product substantial IP. If not there is an IP inefficiency in the project, and the project must have an IP audit to identify & protect IP.

Projects that have consumed so much resources must have solved a major problem and therefore the project team has created IP in form of solutions, and that IP must be protected. The other way to look at things is to review the IP created or used in the project and ensure that there has not been any inadvertent violation of other companies/peoples IP. Often times engineers search the Internet looking for similiar solutions and could have copied a patented design. If such a violation had taken place, the company is at risk for all legal liabilities emerging from the IP litigation.

Role of management

In a typical R&D project there will be several managers: engineering manager, project manager, product manager etc. I would recommend that the managers sit down with key stake holders at the very begining of the project and ask the questions:

  • What major problem is this project solving?
  • What competitive advantage we get with this project?
  • What are the opportunities for IP creation exists in this project?
  • Can we create white papers based on the solutions we are implementing?
  • How do we protect the IP rights once the product/solution is released?
Asking these questions before the project starts ensures that all managers and stakeholders are made aware of the IP being created and the need to protect the IP. Once there is a general awareness of the IP involved in the project, it is a good practice to review the answers & questions periodically to see the progress and take steps to protect the IP.

Asking those questions & having answers to them will help in a big way to create & protect intellectual properties - which is vital to gain competitive advantage in the market and enhance shareholder value.

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