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Winning Races for Patent Positions

Updated: May 2

April 11, 2022

By Robert Cantrell - Registered Patent Agent


In 2009, I wrote the book Outpacing the Competition: Patent-Based Business Strategy. This book stemmed from course material I taught at Patent Resources Group (PRG) during the period. Outpacing the Competition highlights how to build patent portfolios rapidly and organically via systematic inventing. Systematic inventing involves 1) mapping technical systems encompassing your technology development initiatives, 2) identifying where open space exists for patentable ideas, 3) identifying unsolved challenges from which novel solutions may be derived, and 4) deriving those solutions. The approach can raise inventor productivity by an order of magnitude. My first systematic inventing project, performed at an automobile parts manufacturer in Detroit in 1999, did exactly that. It raised the average number of invention disclosures generated per month by its R&D department from six to sixty.


In 2016-2019, via Walmart’s Emerging Sciences and Innovation group, I had an opportunity to be an inventor instead of a coach, meaning I could apply systematic inventing techniques without the added step of coaching other inventors. I am grateful for the opportunity. Skipping the coaching step allowed me to move faster. As a result, I appear as an inventor on 146 published patents and patent applications and the lead inventor on two thirds of those. Most of those 146 patent applications were filed by 2017, whereupon I returned to coaching in support of other Walmart inventors.


Treating inventing as a system increases both the quantity and quality of inventions you can derive over traditional inventing approaches because you draw from pools of known inventive principles. For example, adding elements such as wheels to an object so you can move it without picking it up is a common principle used to improve mobility. Reviewing pools of known inventive principles when addressing a technical challenge and opportunity allows you to save time otherwise required to recall or recreate those inventive principles from scratch. You lessen the risk of overlooking ideas you should have used and claimed.


You can use systematic inventing to build your patent portfolio in quick time around new areas of technology. Systematic inventing also helps to focus technology development efforts by highlighting where enabling solutions need more work. Further, you can use systematic inventing to block, design around, and leapfrog competitive patent positions by studying how those competitive positions are likely to evolve. You invent into those paths of evolution and file before those competitors.

 

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