How IP and R&D Team could Collaborate during the Lifecycle of a Technology?

Having a sound patent strategy is as crucial as having a well-planned business strategy for a company. In the era where thousands of patents are being filed by technology giants each year, it is becoming increasingly difficult to design a sound patent strategy for one’s company.

In most of the companies, the distance between the IP department and R&D department is widening. These two departments that are responsible for shaping the business vision of a company, are working independent of each other. This is leading to more qualitative filing than strategical filing.

Business strategy is always based on market and so should the patent strategy. It’s important to know what is the current state of technology and when that state may probably change. The problem lies in the fact that most of the IP departments think this as a role of the R&D department; which, however, is not the case.

How can Research and IP team collaborate during Five Phases of A Technology?

Most technologies move in a four-phase cycle. Some phases may be longer than others for some particular technologies while some may be shorter than others. These phases form the lifecycle of a technology. A technology in each phase goes through many changes.

Being aware of the correct phase of your technology helps you to know :

  1. When to start working on the next technology?
  2. Which technology is in growth or in the development phase?
  3. Whether your current technology has entered into maturity phase or
  4. Whether it has started declining?

Having an understanding of these pointers would help you stay ahead of the competition.

Ideally, you should have a full plan in place for your product (with new technology) before the existing technology enters the declining phase. That said, it’s important for both R&D and IP department to always be on the same page with respect to their understanding of these phases.

Phase of Technology and Patents

Growth Phase 

This is the beginning phase of a technology lifecycle. During this phase, the field of technology is discovered and patents are filed to exploit the technology. Investments are made after considering the risk if the technology fails to mature.

This is the phase where a lot of time is spent researching the applications of the particular area and accordingly the patents are filed. The interest in the particular technology is normally low during this period. A company invests a lot of money for a radical innovation to pique interest in the eyes of the public.

Side note: During the development phase, an R&D team innovates and files a lot of patent applications. The IP Team, at this stage, could file various patents that could bring a lot of revenue for the company when the technology matures. We assimilated a list of practices that can help you fil revenue-generating patents. You can read the article here: Click here to read

Development Phase

In the development phase, the interest in the particular technology goes up. Universities and big corporations, in general, are the players behind the game. They reap the benefit by participating in the market of the emerging technology.

Early innovations in the technology attract public attention. This further leads to a steep increase in developments and innovations in an attempt to get around the patents of the competitors.

During this phase, the patented inventions are disclosed and opened to the general public. The early adopters become the potential customers. A lot of marketing efforts are put to achieve a stable reputation in the market.  A rise in patent filing trend is observed in this phase.

Here, IP departments can play a crucial role by:

  1. Keeping a continuous track of technologies that are entering the development phase.
  2. Analyzing and predicting when a technology is moving from the growth phase to the development phase.

IP department, then, can use all of this information to keep the R&D department updated about the happenings of their domain, and R&D dept. can use this information to build their next strategy.

Maturity Phase

This is the stage where a technology reaches the zenith and becomes commonplace. In this phase, there are few improvements that are made to the existing technology with no breakthroughs occurring.

During this stage, patenting activities fall low and the late adopters and laggards form the customer base. There is stifling competition between companies during this phase, which results in lowering the prices to appear irresistible to the customer base.

The important part, for IP dept. of every company, is to understand when the technology is entering from Development phase to Maturity phase. And then communicating that to R&D so that they can stop making efforts in that direction and channelize their energy in the next thing.

Most of the companies misinterpret the growing phase of business as technology development phase, whereas their businesses are a few years behind the technology. By the time they realize declining business growth, technology has already taken a turn. Sun Microsystem, Motorola, Nokia, Blackberry are all examples of this misalignment between the technology and the business strategy of the company.

Declining Phase

Declining phase is the most frowned upon phase in technology lifecycle. Here the patenting activities stop abruptly with a steep decrease in the sales of the product. During these times, the value of patents hit a low. Many companies buy these low cost patents and wait for the market to recover to reap benefits.

At such times, patent portfolios are built at low prices for a technology that has faltered. Any investment made in R&D for the current technology yields no profits. At such time when a technology becomes obsolete, replacements are readily available.

This is the best phase for a company to shred off the extra load that is there due to the low-quality patents filed during the development and maturity phase. Low-quality patents can make a hole of millions of dollars in a company’s account. Moreover, if these patents are filed in multiple countries, you can multiply the expense. So, this is the right time to keep what is vital and shred off the clutter.

Related Read: Low quality patents are absolutely valueless. They are worth zero. Here’s a method to spot low quality patents in your portfolio and kill them: Click here to read.

The role of IP department here is to find what went wrong last time that led them to the low-quality filing. The IP department can analyze the whole phase to find out the potholes. They can then communicate their results to the R&D team. The results may help R&D to decipher what could be a low-quality research later in the future, and they can channelize their resources and time on the vital ones.

Recovery Phase

This phase is also called the phase of the resurrection (not displayed in the diagram). The companies those were able to amass huge patent portfolios for the technology could use it to earn licensing royalties as they move to new technologies. Again, this is a phase where the IP department can play an important role by adding an additional revenue stream to the company’s overall revenue. They can also help the company recover all the investments made during the development phase in the R&D by the company.

This phase could yield extra profits if the current technology is merged with a new technology in which there is little or no innovation taking place. In such cases where two technologies merge to produce new innovations, there is very little to lose.

Once you identify the current phase of a particular technology, it becomes simple enough to decipher whether you should invest in a particular technology or whether you refrain. Thus, with the proper investments made at the right time could help yield increased profits. And profits are good for business.

How do you know if your R&D and IP teams are working together? This can be a tough question to answer. Conversely, how do you know that you don’t have an effective patent strategy? One good indicator could be that your competitors are not affected by your strategy.

However, let me make things bit easier. If you can answer this, you have a clear strategy: Would you rather have patents on your own products or on the products your competitors are making?


Related read: How technology lifecycle helps in patent portfolio maintenance?

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