A Peril Of Innovation; Guard Your Babies

stealing an idea from someone's headIrish companies are losing out “hugely” because they fail to properly protect their innovations, according to Michael O’Duffy, CEO of the Centre for Software Engineering at DCU. It was a stark warning that all your valuable work could be taken from under your nose if you fail to look after it.

His comment came at the last of a four-seminar series on managing and exploiting innovation, which was hosted by the Irish Computer Society (ICS).  O’Duffy and David Trevitt of Business Knowledge Innovation, had been discussing some of the practicalities of getting innovations to market. But, as often happens at these things, some questions at the end prompted a lively discussion on protection of intellectual property.

O’Duffy said this issue “needs to be addressed clearly.” Companies should be implementing non-disclosure agreements and other means of protecting their property. “There are huge problems in Ireland with leakage,” he said.

Trevitt noted that some companies do not even patent their innovations because they are afraid competitors may modify and market their ideas. With staff turnover, industry seminars and office gossip, however, he said it is safe to assume your competitors will have some notion of what you are working on.

But the patent office is a good place to start, Trevitt acknowledged. During World War II, the Allies spent years trying to code break messages from the Nazis’ enigma machine. But they could have saved time and effort if they had gone to the London patent office because a similar device was registered in 1937, he said.

(Over a year later, a similar comment was made by Mazhar Bari, CEO of SolarPrint (@SolarPrint), who said his company’s innovations were “too valuable to patent.”)

After touching on it briefly, both speakers could easily have gone on to hold another seminar on open innovation. But that was not the purpose of last Friday’s talk. Rather, they outlined some of the practical steps needed in bringing innovations to market. They also went over other pitfalls that can be avoided.

Before discussing some of the practicalities O’Duffy and Trevitt reminded the audience that innovation is more than technology. It can come as new products or services, a new means of delivery or a whole new business model.

Before bringing a new product or service to market, they advised asking some searching questions. Are the existing channels suited to the new product? Can distributors handle it? How will you capture market unvarnished feedback? Have you aligned your internal stakeholders? Are you bringing them along? They cautioned that internal politics can derail or hamper product development.

Trevitt cautioned about missed deadlines. Delayed launches can mean lost revenue. Announcement dates not adhered to will also result in loss of trust. O’Duffy drove home the need for extensive planning. If new products are being introduced, everything from packaging to recycling needs to be addressed, he said.

They crammed a lot in to the hour-long session. ICS members can find a recording of the entire talk here (when it becomes available). For everyone else, the poor man’s option involves reading my previous blog postings on seminar 3, seminar 2 and seminar 1.

Image courtesy of Scienceheath on Flickr.com

3 thoughts on “A Peril Of Innovation; Guard Your Babies

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