Note: This post is part of a series on how to cultivate your IP. View the start of the Cultivate Your IP series here. • • • A free webinar on this topic is available — details about the webinar are available here.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the similarities between gardening and managing a portfolio of intellectual property (IP). If you have seen our Cultivating Your IP infographic, this comparison isn’t surprising. But the connection is worth considering, especially this time of year when — particularly here in the northern U.S. — we’re waiting for it to be warm enough to plant. 🙂
As Danielle discussed in her post, periodically reviewing the IP portfolio is an essential part of tending to the technologies effectively. Today I’m discussing the approach to and process of reviewing the IP portfolio that we at Fuentek use with our clients.
Prioritize the Backlog: What’s Dead, What’s Ready to Plant?
Having worked with dozens of technology transfer offices (TTOs), Fuentek knows it’s easy for invention disclosures to pile up like plants in a greenhouse waiting to be put in the garden. As time passes, older plants move to the background to make room for the new arrivals. The quality of an older plant may start to drop (or maybe it wasn’t that great a plant to begin with). Before you know it, the greenhouse is overflowing with a combination of hearty plants that will thrive once put in the ground and plants that are past their prime, starting to wilt, or flat-out dead.
IP Portfolio Optimization involves analyzing each plant (technology) in the overflowing greenhouse (portfolio) to identify:
- Those that have good potential for successful growth vs. those likely to wither in the field and
- What action needs to be taken with each one
What is ready to be planted immediately? What needs a bit more nurturing first? Is there an issue to be resolved before deciding? Or is this a plant that you’ll just pay minimal attention to for now and add to the garden if the opportunity arises? This analysis gives you the answers to these questions.
By looking at each piece of IP individually at a high level and then looking across the portfolio to characterize it for further analysis, Portfolio Optimization gives you a sense of your overall portfolio. Characterizing what you have in this way helps identify both strategic and tactical ways to focus your resources to get the best overall results.
Eliminate Low-Potential Technologies: Pulling Weeds
Fuentek has found that one of the most important aspects of Portfolio Optimization is eliminating the low-potential technologies from the portfolio. An example of such IP would be a technology that has an issued patent but has not garnered any licensing interest because the market has surpassed it, rendering it an expensive asset with no likely return on investment.
Such IP could be thought of as a dead plant, but I think of it more as a weed. Weeds clutter the garden visually. They prevent you from seeing the plants that are going to bear fruit or flowers. When you have low-potential IP in the portfolio, it’s distracting. Imagine your knowledge management system spitting out a report of all 200 technologies in the portfolio rather than merely the 50 technologies where you need to be active. It makes it hard to focus, doesn’t it?
Worse yet, weeds draw valuable nutrients from the soil, making fewer of those resources available for the plants that should grow. Eliminating the low-potential IP from the portfolio ensures it won’t take any resources away from the technologies that deserve them. (Read more on determining if a technology is a fit for pursuing commercialization here.)
Maximize Potential: Group Plants for Greater Impact
Another important aspect of Portfolio Optimization is identifying technologies that would benefit from being marketed together and/or licensed as a group, thereby maximizing their potential.
This is similar to the gardening principle that you should cluster plants in groups of at least three for greater visual impact. Presenting multiple related (and, of course, relevant) technologies will be more attractive to a potential licensee than a single piece of IP because it makes it more worth their time to dig further.
Groupings also allow you to stretch your marketing dollar further. Just as it’s easier and much faster to work in one area of the garden doing a single task to the same type of plant at a time, it is more cost-effective to pitch multiple technologies to a prospect at once rather than going back over and over to discuss technologies one at a time. (Read more on ramping up for tech marketing here.)
Stories from the Field: Reaping Long-Term Rewards from Strategic IP Portfolio Optimization
Develop the IP Portfolio Management Strategy: Make the Most of Your Time in the Garden
As much as any gardener would love to have unlimited resources to make the landscape spectacular, the fact is that time and money are limited. So too it goes with IP portfolio management. On any given day, you have to consider:
- How am I going to use the time I have available for this plant/IP?
- Should I focus on doing just one task all over or spend time doing multiple tasks in one section of the garden/portfolio?
- What vital work needs to be done before the window of opportunity closes for this plant/IP?
Portfolio Optimization is a process you can use to figure out exactly how to apply your resources to achieve the best yield from the high-potential IP and weed out the low-potential IP. This type of work is a Fuentek specialty, and multiple clients have found our services to be extremely valuable and time efficient. Contact us today to learn more about how Fuentek can help you cultivate your IP.