Schoppe leads a training session for innovators at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. (NASA photo by Chris Gunn)
In most organizations, the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to intellectual property (IP) management. So it is easy to forget that someone outside the office is a key player in commercialization: the innovators who develop the technology you’re licensing out to external organizations.
Although some inventors really get it when it comes to technology commercialization, they are few and far between. But this is not to say that they can’t get it. In most cases, they have never had IP management explained to them. In fact, I just read an e-mail exchange between a TTO and an inventor where the inventor confessed not knowing what a patent maintenance fee is or why it’s important.
Proactive TTOs provide training to their innovators. At its most basic level, training sessions on how to prepare an invention disclosure can help innovators overcome their trepidation in filing this important piece of paperwork with your TTO. But innovator training can do so much more.
Training innovators on the ins and outs of IP management helps them understand:
- Their legal responsibilities in protecting IP: This can increase invention disclosures and helps innovators appropriately share information in collaborative R&D—an increasingly common situation as organizations implement a more “open innovation” (or preferably a Symbiotic Innovation) environment.
- What qualifies as an invention: This helps them to recognize when they have invented something and file their invention disclosures at the right time.
- The connections between innovation and commercialization: This can help them develop technologies that are aligned with market needs and, therefore, better poised for success
- What the TTO does with the technology after receiving their disclosures: This sets reasonable expectations and gives them an appreciation for your decision-making and patenting process.
Fuentek has a lot of experience leading innovator training programs (check out the sample of our work), and we have found time and again that innovators who understand what the TTO does are better participants in technology transfer activities, which in turn helps the TTO be more effective in executing the IP management strategy.
For example, when innovators understand that you are evaluating their inventions based on competitive intelligence regarding market interest and then proceeding for business reasons (including budget constraints), they are more likely to be cooperative in the later steps of commercialization and less likely to question why a particular invention is not proceeding to patent.
Put simply: An informed inventor is the best commercialization partner you can have. When you invest in your innovators with training, the ROI will be substantial.
Tell us about your experiences with training innovators. Did you find that it paid off?
–By Laura A. Schoppe