Keep an Innovative Climate in the Company

In the last update I discussed the importance of being open minded to your own ideas. It is also important that there is an innovative climate in the  company/office in order to succeed in the development of new inventions. For instance, one needs to keep an open mind in discussions with colleagues.

Below, there is one exercise for the blog-reader I hope you can solve ?.

Which of the two answers by the person B below would have the largest potential to create inventions?

1 . Two persons A and B meet at the coffee machine

A. “I have a brilliant idea!”

Person A explains the idea.

B. “Great idea! This seems to be new and I have some proposals on how to improve your idea!”

2.  Two persons A and B meet at the coffee machine

A. “I have a brilliant idea!”

Person A explains the idea.

B. “No No, This can’t be new, go back to your office!”

Any guesses?

Ok, you guessed no 1. Great! That is correct!

So make sure to be positive and open minded not only to your own ideas; you and your colleagues need  also to be open minded towards other person’s ideas and coach and enhancing each other’s ideas.

So, from now on, throw the “Not Invented Here/By Me” mentality in the garbage can!

 

Generate ideas

Ok, now we start with the first secret:

Generate ideas and take your ideas seriously!

I will say that every person on the planet comes up with brilliant ideas once in a while. That is of course also true for let us say professional people working as engineers/researchers. However, many also believe that oneself is an “Average-Joe” and just my ideas, I come up with “must be simple and well known to all other persons on the planet”. But hold on … how many people actually work with the tasks/topics/subjects you are working on for, say the last years? If you think about it, it is probably not so many that you would expect from the beginning.

What does that really means? Well, you might be a World class expert in your task/topic/subject ?!    And world class people, they can make inventions, right? So don’t be shy!

Of course every idea you come up with is not new and inventive, but if you start by thinking ”no” and censor you own ideas without further investigations, you will miss a lot of good ideas that might be novel and inventive and hence patentable!

So, next time you come up with a brilliant idea, think “yes”, not “no”!

Can everyone be an Inventor?

Many people believe that one needs to be an one-of-a-kind Einstein in order to come up with inventions. That is not true. Furthermore, it is also expected that in order to obtain a patentable invention one needs to invent something new in the same ballpark as inventing the wheel. That is not true either.

Many inventions today, may be small improvements of an existing technique that seem to be non-important, but solves a problem in a new and inventive way that improves something (performance, reducing cost etc.) with an amount that it has a business value to be protected by a patent.

So can anyone be an inventor? I guess so. What you need is knowledge of the subject or topic you are working on. A study made by the authority Tillväxtanalys, 2011 about “Svenska uppfinnare” (in Swedish), indicated that a majority of Swedish inventors where highly educated (Master degree and PhD:s). Looking at my co-inventors throughout my career, I will say that this is probably true for corporate inventors working at high-tech companies. However, it is very important to understand that an invention does not need to be very high-tech. Many inventions are clever (and looking at them afterwards, simple) solutions to well-known problems, but the solution is made in a novel and inventive way.

So I will definitely say that high formal education is not the only success factor for being an inventor.  I believe that it is equally important that one has an open mind and a genuine interest in the subject/topic you are working with. In the next few blog posts I will start to reveal some of my secrets about how to become a prolific inventor. Hang on ….

Corporate Inventors

One can divide inventors into two different groups; independent and corporate inventors

Independent inventors patent their inventions so that they have their own rights over them, and plan to earn income from selling the product the patent covers or selling or licensing the patent to others. Many people think inventors are people like Walt Disney’s Gyros Gearloose – which could be seen as an independent inventor – but independent inventors are not in majority.

Instead, most inventors are corporate inventors (as myself) and usually inventions are made in the course of employment and are ultimately owned by the employer. The ownership of an invention made by an employee for an employer is often specified in the terms of employment. The terms may be different depending on type of invention relative the employer business (the invention relevant or not relevant for the business), different depending on laws in different countries as well different between different companies. But the general principle is that the employer owns the rights to the business relevant inventions made by the employee, but the employee in exchange gets a monetary compensation. The employer who made the invention is however still the inventor and gets his/her name on the patent (and the credits in the personal CV). In Sweden for example, there are some general guidelines about ownership and monetary compensations for inventions made by employees for an employer, “Uppfinnaravtalet”.

Hence, there is an economical incentive for the employee employed by companies focusing on innovation, to innovate and come up with business relevant inventions that may generate revenue for the employer, a win-win situation.

Why are patents important?

In order to understand the importance of patents from a business perspective, I will exemplify with the industry I been working in, during the last around 20 years; the Wireless communication and smartphone business.

Looking at the worldwide handset market 2016, close to 1.5 Billion smartphones were sold with a revenue of more than $420 Billion! The operator revenues 2016  were even larger, around $1300 Billion. Focusing only on the US market, the revenue (2015) for the two largest operators, AT&T Mobility and  Verizon Wireless  was $90+ and $70+ Billion respectively!

As can be seen, the market is huge, and the players in the market need to protect (and possibly try to increase) their market shares. In order to do so, the companies need to invest money in R & D and Patents, and licensing patents to other companies are ways to protect their own business and therefore a way to get money in return on invested R&D.

For a company investing a lot of money in R & D, patents can have different values depending on the company’s business model and position in the market. First of all, patents will protect your own inventions from others. This might be of importance for instance for start-ups with few patents, and then patent protection may then be a way to get venture capital.

Secondly, building a strong patent portfolio helps avoiding paying royalties to other patent holders through cross-license agreements, providing freedom of action. This might be important for a larger company coming into a new business, for instance.

Furthermore, a very strong patent portfolio makes it possible to license the company’s inventions to other companies, which may bring royalty revenues. Furthermore, such revenues may add additional cost of sales to competitors’ products, giving a company with a strong patent portfolio an cost advantage. This is what can be called the offensive value of patents.

So, in short: Why are patents important? It is business!

What is a Patent?

In order to understand what comprise an invention and the underlying thought process about, firstly, how to come up with inventions and, secondly, how to make them into patents one needs to know what a patent is. This information is easily found on the Internet, for instance here, and the legal aspects of patents will not be treated in detail in this blog,  but below I give a “crash-course” in “What is a patent”.

One could say that a patent is a contract between the inventor/applicant and the society. The inventor/applicant gets a monopoly right to the invention while the society gets a detailed description of how to carry out the invention which improves the technical development in the society.

The monopoly right is limited in time, typically max 20 years. It is furthermore limited geographically, typically to one county.

In order to get a patent granted, there is a need to fulfill four requirements, these are

  • Novelty – The claimed invention should be new w.r.t. prior art, i.e. known techniques
  • Inventive step – The claimed invention should not be obvious in view of prior art
  • Industrial applicability – The invention should belong to a “technical” field
  • Enabling disclosure – The patent application should disclose the invention in a manner such that a skilled person is capable of performing the invention.

Furthermore, a patent consists of the following sections

  • Technical field
  • Background
  • Summary
  • Brief description of drawings
  • Detailed description
  • Claims
  • (Abstract)
  • Drawings

It is the claim parts that defines the scope of protection of the invention.

Furthermore, there is some important facts that probably many do not know about patents.

Having a patent does not mean that you are free to use the invention!

Many inventions today are improvements of prior inventions that may be covered by someone else’s valid patent. If an inventor obtains a patent on improvements to an existing invention which is still a valid patent, they can only legally use the improved invention if the patent holder of the original invention gives permission, which they may refuse.

A granted patent is not necessarily valid!

This might sound surprising, but a granted patent can e.g. be invalidated in court or during opposition.

It is also important to know that there is nothing like a “world patent”. Patents are typically national, and a patent application need to be filed before in a national patent office (e.g. The Swedish Patent Registration Office, PRV or United States Patent and trademark Office, USPTO). The patent application is then searched and examined by the national patent office, and if the application is granted, the result is a national patent in the country in which the application was filed.

A patent family is a set of  patent applications  taken in multiple countries to protect a single invention by  common inventors and then patented in more than one country. A first application is made in one country – the priority – and is then extended to other offices.

Finally, renewal fees (for each country) have to be paid to the national patent office in order to keep the patent in force, and the maximum life length of a patent is typically 20 years.

 

The How, What and Why ….

In my seminars about inventions and patent creation I usually talk about the “How, What and Why of patents”, and in order to follow the blog it might be good to understand what that means.

First of all, one needs to know What a patent is. This information can be found elsewhere  on the Internet, but I will in the next blog update make a short “crash course” on “what is a patent”.

Secondly, one needs to understand “Why are patents important for industries and society”. Here comes the business perspective of patent into the picture, and this is also information that can be found on many places  in cyber space. However, I will also deal with this subject in the blog since it is of importance to understand the need for inventors, inventions, patent creation and patents.

Finally, we have “How to create patents”, and here we come into my area of expertise, Inventing and patent creation. I will reveal some of my secrets on how to become a prolific inventor, in forthcoming blog updates.

I will also deal with related stuffs, concerning creativity, inventors, inventions and patent creation from my, a researcher and prolific inventor’s, perspective. Example embodiment also covered by the invention … ehhh …sorry….the blog, is; “corporate inventors vs independent inventors”, “who has most Patents on the Planet”, “Statistics over prolific inventors”, “Inventing improves your business network”, “Method and apparatus for producing one invention per week over a year”,  “patent war 100 years ago” and many more. So follow my blog and see what you can learn ?.

OK, Let’s start!

Hello!

There are a lot of information out there on Internet about patents and the value of patents for the industry. However, I have not found so much information about how to become an inventor and the way to think in order to create patents. In this blog i will reveal some of my secrets on how to become a prolific inventor.

OK,  Who am I?

I’m an independent researcher with a background in Electrical Engineering (MSc EE 1992) and Mathematical Statistics (PhD 1997), both exams from Lund University, Sweden,  with around 20 years experience from research in the Wireless Communication Industry at Ericsson Research.

With more than 420 filed patent applications and around 1400 granted patents worldwide within the area of wireless communication, I think I have some experience related to patent creation that could be of interest for a wider audience.

Welcome!