Underpinning the current economic recovery is economic growth, but growth is a fragile and unpredictable thing, says Gwilym Roberts, a partner at patent and trade mark attorneys Kilburn & Strode
Key economic drivers are innovation and creativity and, more and more, governments are looking to identify mechanisms to stimulate these. In the UK, creativity in the musical, visual and performing arts has always been strong, with consumer demand remaining high and aspiration inspiring the next generation of suppliers. The UK also has a strong track record in technical innovation, but according to various indicators, we still lag behind other European countries in this field.
The intellectual property (IP) system is the foundation of and stimulus for technical innovation. Without patents, innovators would not be able to monetise their concepts, be it through licensing or exclusivity. And without that opportunity there would be no incentive to invest in innovation. The IP system in the UK is one of the world’s most highly developed and respected, and the challenge that IP professionals face is mapping cutting-edge legal and commercial expertise on to continued growth of the innovation economy.
Basic tools, such as obtaining strong patents to prevent copiers from muscling in on new ideas, are just the beginning. Innovating companies need strong education to understand how the IP system can benefit them. They need a structured environment in which innovation is encouraged and captured for optimum protection. And they need cost-effective and tailored solutions for turning those great ideas into a powerful IP portfolio.
Innovating companies need cost-effective and tailored solutions for turning great ideas into a powerful IP portfolio
Those tools are not as complex as they sound. The patent system, both in the UK and globally, is sophisticated and well designed. If you have a good technical concept then, as long as it is adequately described, you should be able to get a strong patent – one that third parties struggle to design around and that forces them to take a licence or move to an inferior product, transitioning from me too to “meh too”. Innovation capture, similarly, can be achieved very simply.
Yes, multinationals have intranet-driven form-based concept disclosure systems, backed up by rewards and incentives, but you don’t have to start there. Innovators love to talk about their ideas, so brain-storming sessions can be an enormously effective mechanism for unlocking your business’s IP potential. The raw information needed to make decisions on subsequent IP protection is again simple – what is your concept, why is it better than what happened before, why will it sell?
Building the portfolio is a matter of converting the raw information into a structure patent portfolio. A mature patent portfolio can take many years to develop, but a strong, quick core patent covering a platform technology is just as powerful if the competition is locked out as a result. Cost effectiveness is achieved by planning, provision of streamlined procedures and the strongest understanding between the IP professional and the innovator company.
Innovation must always drive IP, not the other way round. But once the company has arrived at its great idea, IP provides the legal token for driving the best bargain. Monetisation is the end game and, with a strong patent strategically employed, the innovating company can guarantee this. There are many models – maintaining exclusivity over product or brand through strong policing and enforcing, through to an open source-style licensing or franchising programme to invoke multiple revenue streams through royalties. By identifying the relevant stakeholders, be they competitors to be stopped or collaborators to be partnered, and using a company’s IP resources, the R&D spend can be recouped and leveraged.
There are many success stories globally and the UK has its share, but with the IP resources available we can turn them into the keystone of a powerhouse, world-leading innovation economy.
Kilburn & Strode LLP, 20 Red Lion Street, London WC1R 4PJ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7539 4200
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