Intellectual property is a huge driver of a company’s value, estimated at between 50% and 80% of the average company’s market capitalization. It can be leveraged in a number of ways, e.g.:
- Staying ahead of competitors with new, exclusive features
- Creating a patent thicket around a market (like smartphones, which are covered by more than 25,000 patents)
- Licensing IP to gain additional revenue (like Qualcomm, who made more than $6.6B in 2015)
Research organizations and legal departments need to work closely together to create and protect this value for the company; unfortunately, however, “culture clashes” between lawyers and scientists are common. Lawyers focus on spotting risks and think a lot about how to keep companies’ secrets protected. Scientists, on the other hand, operate in a collaborative environment where shared ideas, both internal and external, create new breakthroughs. As a result, these two groups often come into conflict.
Fortunately, there are a number of different ways research organizations and legal departments can work together to build their relationship and utilize the strengths of both parties:
- Researchers can take the lead to schedule frequent informal meetings. Highly imaginative scientists may work on a wide range of ideas over a short time frame. Informal meetings where they talk through what they are working on can help to track ideas that may turn into profitable new products, giving legal an opportunity to identify key concepts early and begin protecting them via IP or NDAs as appropriate. The scientists, either individually or in a small group, may even begin to generate new ideas as they talk through their current projects.
Scientists operate in a collaborative environment where shared ideas create new breakthroughs.
- Legal can streamline external collaboration procedures. In the course of our work, Newry often helps clients find potential collaborators and set up meetings to fill the innovation pipeline with new ideas. However, these meetings can be a flashpoint for the tensions between research and legal departments: before scientists can even determine whether there are any possible areas for collaboration, legal has to make sure ideas are protected or risk inadvertent disclosure. We have been exploring new ways of facilitating this due diligence process, such as data science tools that provide rapid information on potential synergies, possible conflicts, and common focus areas where the companies may be able to work together. Better information and clear guidelines from legal helps companies collaborate.
- Together, they can brainstorm together on key ideas. Critical innovations that may launch a new technology area can often be recognized early in the development process, and generating a comprehensive IP strategy around an idea quickly can enable a company to get ahead of any competitors. Refined output from Newry “IPstorms” has helped clients’ R&D and legal departments to flesh out all permutations of an idea, generate a better understanding of the idea’s potential value, and develop a long-term strategy for how to continue to develop the technology while protecting it.
A good relationship between legal and R&D is key for a strong, innovative company. Even in well-run organizations, there may be opportunities to revisit the relationship and try new techniques for strengthening the connection.