A problem with many corporate IP management efforts is that they are reactive only. These IP systems typically focus on incoming invention disclosures and existing patent applications, leading to recommendations on which disclosures to file, which countries to file in, and which existing applications to abandon for cost control. These are vital components for intellectual asset (IA) management, but they typically fall short in providing strategy that can inform prospective inventors about what kind of inventions are needed.

Effective IA management begins not with the processing of existing documents, but with the development and articulation of vision to guide the process of IA generation and acquisition. It begins with a roadmap of what the corporation needs to own and protect, and that roadmap can then be infused into a written IA strategy statement that guides the IA-generating community to know what they need to create, and also guides IA committees to know what they should be approving.

Written strategy statements can help innovators be more successful and decision makers more disciplined, though there must also be leeway for out-of-the-strategy-box inventions that could lead to unexpected opportunities. However, most IA generating work in a corporation can and should be targeted and focused on specific objectives.

Once a clear vision is communicated regarding the IA needs of the corporation, IA generating activities can be used to supplement normal new product development and R&D. These exercises can be driven by the IA management team to achieve low-cost IA estates in targeted areas for specific objectives, such as averting a disruptive threat, laying a foundation for future IP in a potentially disruptive area where R&D investment is not yet available, weakening the IP potential of a competitive merger or acquisition, etc. At least a portion of the IA generating efforts of a corporation should be driven from the top with a clear objective in mind, rather than waiting for random invention disclosures to trickle up during the course of normal R&D activities. IA strategy should lead innovation.

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