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The new book "Inventioneering," released this week, argues that the "digitization of everything" has brought about a global intellectual property war, one which U.S. companies are ill-equipped structurally and culturally to fight and win. Authors James Billmaier and Britt Griffith, the CEO and Director of Marketing respectively of patent technology company TurboPatent, raisethe alarm that China, in particular, is successfully executing a national initiative to achieve worldwide dominance in the competition for the legal ownership of ideas. To survive, American companies need to adopt a new way of thinking, starting in the boardroom, that emphasizes systemic invention over indeterminate innovation.
Emergent technologies like 3D printing, robotics, and bioprinting among others coupled with ubiquitous internet access have removed most operational barriers to reproducing and distributing physical goods. "In this new competitive era, where product is reduced to information, and that information is the embodiment of the company's innovation, those who create a superior intellectual property strategy and execute on it will ultimately win," Billmaier and Griffith write.
China, the world's second largest economy, surpassed the U.S. in the number of patent filings in 2011 and has become a superior environment for patent enforcement. In 2015, China had 1,101,864 patent filings compared to 589,410 in the U.S. While China is often disparaged as a producer of knock-off goods, Billmaier and Griffith assert that this is an out-of-date perception, as China is both developing technology and leveraging technology that is not patented yet. China's knowledge base, they argue, can easily be turned into a weapon to fend off international competition.
"Inventioneering" analyzes how and why the fusing of engineering and invention will be the key to success in the business world. It provides a roadmap not just to short-term victory in the IP war, but towards a new way of doing business. Some of the key areas the book covers include:
· Many executives are clueless about IP -- They fail to understand the emerging risks related to intellectual property beyond competitive companies and countries. Corporate leaders must be aware of shareholder risks, board of director accountability and spurious lawsuits. It is no longer sufficient to say, "It's complicated" or "legal has got this" when it comes to a company's IP and the associated liabilities.
· The IP industry is broken -- The intellectual property industry and its processes have long been challenged, and patent law is in a constant and unpredictable state of change. As a result, an IP portfolio is a dynamic asset that must be regularly monitored, pruned and curated. An uncurated patent portfolio likely contains a lot of junk, on which companies are wasting money in maintenance costs. Worse, junk-filled portfolios can give companies a false sense of security.
· IP law is embarrassingly low-tech -- Although intellectual property law has historically been seen as an arcane, low-tech, painfully slow, complicated and expensive field, there are now automated technologies that alleviate many of these issues. These systems, which businesses should be incorporating into their IP processes, allow corporate executives to quickly and easily understand, manage and measure patents and IP portfolios.
· IP is too important to leave to the lawyers -- For an enterprise to survive in this new business era, it is no longer sufficient to leave intellectual property solely in the hands of the legal team. Understanding and leading a company's IP efforts is an essential role for the executive team and board of directors.
· Melding engineering and inventing is essential -- In order for a business to win in this new era, they must go even further than innovation. They must look to inventioneering -- a set of best and enhanced practices combining inventing and engineering that start at the very top of a company's hierarchy and permeate throughout the business. Inventioneering begins with every product's conception and continues to the end of its lifecycle. To successfully utilize inventioneering, companies must work to embed it into its very culture.