IP Practices: Why R&D Teams Should Include IP in Their Innovation Strategy

Research and development (R&D) teams and IP units are the two pillars of modern IP-centric organizations. The significance of collaboration between the two has been emphasized by scholars in the past. There are multiple benefits of such teamwork, including the successful realization of the organization’s objective. Hence, this article focuses on five reasons why R&D teams need to include IP units in their innovation strategy.

R&D and IP Teams – Realizing the Problem

An IP-centric business is largely driven by its R&D and IP teams. While the former’s job is to resolve technical challenges by identifying the best possible solutions, the latter’s aim is to tackle legal issues and challenges related to those innovations. However, sometimes, the collaboration between the two is plagued by reluctance to share information.

If these two departments continue to work in silos, it can lead to a lack of interaction, confusion and mismanagement in the organization, affecting the successful realization of the company’s objective. Therefore, businesses need to understand the need for effective collaboration between R&D and IP teams.

As mentioned above, the motives of the R&D and IP teams are different, and at times, conflicting. For example, since IP teams prioritize the legal issues of IP prosecution and IP litigation, adhering to perfect legal norms is usually their motive whereas, R&D teams put innovation and creativity above all. This may, in some cases, lead to internal organizational conflicts.

Moreover, the terminologies and technical jargons used by each of these teams are different, and this may further increase miscommunication between the two. Therefore, to avoid significant losses for an organization, these two teams require working in direct collaboration with each other.

The Need for R&D Teams to Include IP in Their Innovation Strategy

A strong and diverse IP portfolio is not only good for an organization’s business interests but also for the encouragement of R&D teams to develop innovative patentable ideas. This is why good communication is needed between IP teams and R&D teams. Moreover, IP units have invention disclosures in the form of patents and research which can benefit R&D teams.

The points below explain in detail why R&D teams need to include IP units in their innovation strategy:

  • Boosting the Innovation Process: Incorporating IP into the innovation strategy of R&D teams can boost the overall innovation process in many ways. For example, integration of the IP team within the innovation process can help reduce the legal risks associated with innovations. Moreover, IP teams help R&D teams to identify opportunities for collaborations and research partnerships within the given technological domain. This can further boost the efforts of R&D teams in exploring new ideas and developing innovations.
  • Developing Better Innovations: Since IP teams specialize in patent research and analytics, they have a detailed overview of the entire patent landscape for a given patent space and the existing technologies around it. White space analysis of the existing technology spaces can also help R&D teams in targeting the most lucrative white spaces and market gaps for innovation. This insight can be extremely beneficial for R&D teams which can then explore the given patent space and develop better innovations that can be patented by the organization.
  • Product Development: Landscape analysis conducted by IP teams can help in identifying the existing patents and patent applications that can act as barriers to the commercialisation of the product being developed by the R&D team. This helps in guiding the research in the right direction such that the product being developed is differentiated from the existing ones in the market right from the start. In this way, integrating IP into product innovation can sharpen the focus of R&D teams.
  • Modifying and Integrating Innovations: IP teams take care of the legal aspects such as the novelty of innovation within a given geographic region. They can ensure that there is freedom to operate (FTO) within a given patent authority’s jurisdiction. Therefore, IP teams can guide R&D teams either by modifying their innovations and inventions or integrating properly licensed patents into their inventions.
  • Avoiding IP Litigations: Patent clearance searches done by IP teams can help R&D teams to understand whether the product or invention in development is infringing on existing patents. This prevents an organization from getting entangled in IP litigation battles which cost a lot of time and money. Since the rate of filing IP litigations is rising globally, it is best to avoid such legal liabilities.
  • Guidance on Filing Patents: IP teams can guide R&D teams on filing patents to protect their inventions by communicating the legalities of patent prosecution. In this process, IP teams can research prior arts before filing for patents. The process can help in ensuring the novelty of the innovations. This can also help R&D teams to protect their trade secrets and enable exclusivity in hot technological domains where early patent filing is required.
  • Save Time and Money: Patentability searches or patent novelty searches carried out by IP teams can help reduce the time and money required in filing patents. Prior art searches are a useful means by which R&D teams can modify or improvise on their innovations before filing for a patent. The process strengthens the patent application and ensures that the R&D teams don’t spend time and money on things that might not be patentable.

  • Identifying Tech Developments: IP searches help in establishing the stage of development of a particular technology to determine whether R&D teams can use it or not. IP teams can also analyse existing market trends to understand what kind of innovations can be made in the profitable sectors that are currently the most attractive for clients globally.
  • Develop Competitive Edge: While having a strong patent portfolio may motivate R&D teams to work harder in developing more innovations, R&D teams often require a competitive edge over others. By integrating IP into their innovation strategy, R&D teams can monitor the IP activity of competitors and gain useful insights from their IP strategies.
  • Generating Revenue Streams: Proper integration of IP into the innovation strategy helps to generate additional revenue streams by means of licensing-out non-core patents that are not related to the business of the company directly. This can result in handsome profits for an organization and can enhance the innovation process through additional funding.

Final Thoughts

It can be concluded that IP teams can lend a significant value to the R&D teams’ innovation strategy. Not only this, the collaboration between the R&D and IP team of an organization ensures that the entire process of innovation and patent development is optimized. Furthermore, the synergy significantly minimizes legal liabilities and risks from patent infringement and litigation.

Sagacious IP, a global IP research and consulting firm, is well-equipped to assist R&D teams of businesses to boost their innovation strategies. Our expertise in patent prosecution and patent landscape analysis can provide insightful inputs to R&D units to support their innovation strategies.

-Harsha Agarwal (Life Sciences) and the Editorial Team

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