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Patent Incentive Programs

Open innovation requires new strategies to creating and managing IP.  Presently, many companies and universities offer rewards to their inventors for filed patent applications and granted patents.  Chesbrough "Open Innovation" provides an informal survey regarding the reward systems of several technology companies.

Note that Chesbrough's informal survey may be dated, and that the responses may not necessarily reflect company-wide policies.  The survey provides some insight nonetheless.

Interestingly, some companies like HP incentivize the filing of a patent application, but provide no reward for the issuance of a patent.  Others, like Seagate, provide incentives for both filing of the application, and for issuance of a patent.  Other rewards may be provided, such as awards for reaching certain plateaus (see Quantum's structure), or rewards based on the importance of a patent (IBM and Lucent).  Universities also provide interesting incentives whereby a percentage of royalties are awarded to an inventor.

Generous programs such as these are important in creating incentives to promote internal innovation.  In the open innovation paradigm, companies should also create incentives for employees to not only generate new ideas, but to identify important third-party applications and patents that would be useful to further the company's goals.  For example, a bounty program may be implemented to reward an employee who identifies key unassigned applications and patents.  A further reward may also be given if the employee's effort ultimately results in a license or assignment. Additionally, programs have been created to reward employees or members of the public who identify key prior art references to invalidate competitors' patents.  Such an approach may be invaluable in litigations and IPRs.  Many other similar ideas are worthy of exploration, and the sky is the limit.  The goal is to think outside of the box, and to utilize the experience and knowledge of employees and the public to further a company's IP goals.  There is simply no reason to believe that only internally-developed IP is valuable, and it would be a mistake to ignore the input of employees in shaping an IP strategy.

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