Every company has a ton of ideas, potential intellectual assets, waiting to be found. Excavating/Mining all of them is not very easy because they are often lurking in the haystack of information, materials and minds. The task requires special research skills, knowledge of business processes, unique people skills, extensive document review, and keen/informed minds. The quantity and quality of ideas that can be mined always depends on the skills and abilities of the miner/auditor.
The process of finding ideas involves three basic steps. They are:
- Business and Technology Review;
- Business/Technology Information and Material Gathering and Review; and
- Interviews with select personnel.
Each of the aforesaid steps normally includes specific sub-steps based on the nature of the company. Additional actions such as visits to plant, shop floor, retail outlets, etc., review of advertisement, marketing, promotional and sales materials, searches for domain names, marks, patents and so on, may be required.
Business and Technology Review
Normally, the first step in finding ideas is understanding the business and technology in which the company operates. If the company is not technology driven, then the field in which the company operates and related business dynamics must be studied and understood. Understanding a company’s business involves studying the company’s business structure, operations and goals. Sometimes, a market study to understand the business in general may be required.
Understanding a business not only facilitates idea discovery, but also enables appropriate classification of ideas for further action. Generally, not all ideas are converted into intellectual assets. Once they are found, ideas are analyzed and classified from the business and legal perspectives for further action.
Information Gathering and Review
To find ideas, the auditor/miner must gather all business, technology and other information in the company. The information may be in the form of documents, technologies, know how, devices, processes, and so on. All types of information from technology to financial and marketing information may be relevant. However, as it is not possible to review all information due to time and effort constraints, an experienced miner/auditor collects only information, where probability of finding ideas is higher. What to collect and what not to collect is more often than not an objective judgment made by the auditor/miner on a case-by-case basis.
Where information is not documented and available in other forms, it may be captured on a tangible form for future reference. If information resides in the minds of personnel, it must be reduced to writing. Once all relevant information is gathered, it must be reviewed with the sole objective of finding ideas.
Following a review of the organization structure of the company, the auditor/miner normally sets up interviews with all-important personnel from the idea discovery perspective. Interviews help the auditor/miner understand the business of the company, operations and processes, potential sources of ideas, and so on. Interviews normally play an important role in finding ideas, and also, pave the way for further information review. Simply put, interviews help the auditor/miner identify and mine ideas from people as sources.
The process of finding ideas ends with an inventory of ideas. If the aim is to create intellectual assets, the inventory is categorized based on types of IP. Based on the objectives of the company, the auditor/miner may also classify based on factors such as business potential, financial value, IP-ability, strength, market value, etc.
The idea inventory forms the foundation for further analysis and intellectual asset creation. More often than not, the inventory is merely the first step in the intellectual asset creation process. Sometimes, companies may require the auditors to list protected ideas also in the inventory. In such a case, the inventory will have the list of IP protected ideas along with their legal and business status.
In addition to finding ideas, performing an IP Audit has several benefits. It helps the business understand its idea, creation and invention potential. Some auditors/miners even rate the creative capabilities of a company they audit. The audit also gives insights into the idea life cycle in the company, and related gaps. This helps in plugging gaps and making the process robust and friendly to idea originators.
Contributed with the support of the IP Strategy and Consulting Division of BananaIP Counsels.