For companies that bring new products to market, setting up an in-house patent program is a great way to acknowledge and reward the creative thinkers that boost your bottom line. People who can come up with new products and processes to expand your production capacities are invaluable and should be celebrated.
1) Do Your Homework
However, if your patent award program management system includes monetary compensation, you will need to put some rules in process on the front end and carefully monitor those listed on the patent.
For example, you may need to implement pre-employment disclosures to be agreed upon before hiring your designers and engineers. The goal of these disclosures is to make sure that both parties (potential employee and potential employer) are aware of possible awards and ultimate ownership of the patent.
2) Invest In Good Data Gathering
One of the hallmarks of a successful creative team is the ability to have idea-churning meetings where everyone is able to speak freely. This type of communication is critical to any organization hoping to move forward with new products and processes.
Make sure to have good record-keeping habits at these meetings. Should one of these ideas develop into a patentable product, you will want to be able to go back and gather the names of those who were in on the ground floor. When it comes time to celebrate or hand out monetary awards, you will have backup for your decisions to award corporate patent awards.
3) Stay Transparent
While not everyone on the creative team may qualify for a cash award, you can structure your patent awards to the recipients and expand the award footprint to include your implementation team, including lab techs and administrative support.
4) Due Diligence
One of the more challenging processes for an in-house patent counsel is confirming that everyone listed on the patent was actually involved in the creation of the product. It’s natural for co-workers who spend a lot of hours together to want to support and promote one another, but not everyone on the team is actually an inventor.
In-house patent practitioners will need to carefully review and connect with all members of the design and development team to be listed on the patent. If, in your fiduciary responsibility to the company, you have to omit someone, you will need to successfully defend that decision.
5) Be Prepared For The Long Haul
Patents take time. From initial filing to rejection or allowance, the US Patent and Trade Office tries to reply within 12 months. This time period may include a great deal of back and forth and communication with multiple offices and people, so stay flexible.
6) Document Your Steps
Your responsibilities in submitting patent applications and monitoring communications thereafter include careful monitoring of your support staff and subordinates. If there is a breakdown in this communication process, you can be denied access to patent submittals or even suspended.
For in-house IP professionals, balancing the demands of employer, designers/engineers and the patent office can be challenging. Keep your cool, monitor your subordinates and track your communications.
7) Celebrate Milestones
Submitting the application is a great milestone, and “patent pending” is an exciting place to be! When celebrating this initial step, be sure to celebrate everyone involved in the submittal process. Public receptions and office parties are a great way to include both designers and the support team.
8) Make Things Visible
Once a patent is pending, make it visible. Even though you won’t get a certificate when a patent is pending, consider creating a simple poster that you can mark up as milestones are reached.
9) Make Things Permanent
Once the patent is awarded and you have your organization has received the reward, make it permanent! Create a wall of success for employees and guests alike to note and enjoy this award.
There are multiple options for setting up a patent display wall. If your organization has the goal of receiving many patents, be sure to start this display in a place that it can easily be expanded.
10) When It’s Time To Renew
Patent renewal fees are not cheap, so it’s important to monitor the necessary renewal windows to avoid being hit with a surcharge. Additionally, there may be patents that can be allowed to lapse as the proprietary data is no longer in use by the organization.
Do the legwork early to make sure leadership is aware of renewals and fees coming up. Paying an unnecessary renewal fee or letting a critical patent lapse could be extremely costly to your organization.
11) Monitor Patent History
Your patent incentive award program can get a terrific boost during renewal season. This is an ideal time to bring in retired employees for a visit or reconnect with those who’ve left under positive circumstances back into the facility to celebrate patent renewals.
12) Recruiting Possibilities
Creative, visionary employees are hard to find and harder to keep. You won’t know if a former employee would consider returning until you ask, and a renewal party is a great time to remind them of how well treated they were by your organization.
In addition, this part of your patent reward program will encourage younger employees to look long-term and make a deeper commitment to the organization. The apprentices, interns and new hires of today may well be your design team of tomorrow, so let the newest employees see their chance to build a successful future with your organization.
Building a successful in-house patent program takes time and dedication to detail. You can promote this program by making success visible. For your business to grow, you need to be constantly improving and advancing your product line. By including all of your employees in this crucial area of growth, you can build a bright future of innovation.