Monday, May 3, 2010

Open Innovation and Intellectual Property

Chris Andrews, Forrester Research, at FEI 2010

I just attended “Interactive and Collaborative Discussion on The Challenges of IP”. While intellectual property issues are not my area of expertise (I prefer to leave those discussions to the lawyers), I find this topic has become a very hot area of interest in the innovation space, particularly as companies have rushed –sometimes too quickly – into their open innovation models. Right now, I get many more questions from Forrester clients – particularly sourcing professionals -- about the IP issues that come up as they extend their ecosystem of stakeholders in more open, global innovation models.

A few of the points of advice I have heard on the panel:
· Take ownership of IP issues from the start as a part of the business relationship before getting the lawyers involved.
· On a similar note, understand what talent the partners bring to the relationship with regard to patents --- this provides a sense of what they do, and their IP history before moving through “all of the NDA stuff”
· Start by asking your partners: 1) do you have a patent? 2) do you have an application? 3) Are you willing to share non-confidential information?
· Using external consultants was raised as a key part of managing IP issues.

I think this session highlighted that the IP issues associated with innovation are very complex- and perhaps not easily addressed in a short session. Some of the participants came to this discussion with very specific questions from their own experience (which were valuable), but the “solution” to managing IP issues in an open innovation model is far from clear to me.

Due to the complexity of this issue, I see the ability to at least address IP management as a very valuable capability of any innovation management partner. This is something that a company I cover, Innocentive, has taken on as a very important component of their open innovation offerings. Since Innocentive helps its clients mange the relationship between companies and third party solvers, clients are relieved of some of some of the IP complexity – and that makes the relationship (and the innovation) run more smoothly.

Have thoughts about innovation management and IP issues? Please let me know. I’m in the back of these sessions typing away.
Chris Andrews
Forrester Research

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