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Disciplined use of an IP management database enhances marketing efforts

By Jack Spain
Senior Consultant
Fuentek LLC

Through our hands-on experience in generating licenses and successful partnership agreements for clients since 2001, Fuentek has relied on a proprietary intellectual property (IP) management database to support our core marketing process. We have found that this database, along with a collection of other best practices for marketing IP, has played a key role in our success in managing the commercialization of innovations across a diverse array of technology categories.

Maintaining an effective IP management database system can help your TTO proactively monitor and manage your marketing initiatives and thereby get maximum value from your IP portfolio. A well-designed and fully utilized IP management system facilitates communication, fosters collaboration, and is an invaluable tool to ensure consistent adherence to your licensing process.

All of the commercial and proprietary IP management database systems currently available have inherent advantages and disadvantages. However, we have found that the crucial factor to achieving maximum value from whatever database system you choose is discipline. The value of your IP database management solution depends upon the entire organization diligently adhering to defined protocols and consistently entering IP-related data into the system.

In using our system over the years, we have identified a number of keys to maximizing its value, which can be universally applied regardless of the specific database used. These success factors are:

  • establishing and following clear, concise, and consistent classification schemes;
  • incorporating full-featured search capabilities;
  • adding workflow management capabilities;
  • integrating reporting tools for efficient project tracking;
  • investing in proper training and mentoring for your staff; and
  • adhering to specific technology guidelines

We have also found that the practices you employ if there is a change in your IP management solution have a direct impact on the success of technology commercialization activities.

Classification Schemes

It is very beneficial to establish — and have the discipline to maintain — standard attributes for each of the technologies within your IP portfolio. These standard taxonomies for categorizing and organizing your technologies are a key prerequisite for incorporating an effective search capability within your IP management solution. Investing the time up-front to appropriately classify your technology assets is a prudent and proven investment.

Comprehensive Search

Another key element within an IP management database solution is a robust search engine that provides your staff with reliable results across your entire database, including all fields and documents. Well-designed search features position your staff to mine information from your database and capitalize on lessons learned from your team’s earlier actions and decisions regarding similar technologies. Of course, the overall effectiveness of your search engine is directly related to the diligence and consistency of the attributes that you use to describe and categorize your technologies.

Integrated Workflow Management

Additional benefits can be obtained by integrating a level of workflow management within your IP management database system to provide the foundation for efficient collaboration and communications across your organization. Your workflow solution should factor in how you efficiently manage the data and documents to support your technology transfer initiatives. Successful workflow solutions promote staff accountability and timely results.

Reporting and Project Management

Effective reporting capabilities assist your staff in increasing productivity and focusing on achieving your overall organizational goals and objectives. The foundation of a sound project management tool incorporates the ability to easily and quickly obtain status information on each technology initiative for your line managers. Your reporting features should also provide visibility and transparency across your IP management database solution.

Staff Training and Mentoring

Implementing a world-class IP management database solution without training — and without providing support to your team — will only result in frustrated and dissatisfied staff, inaccurate or incomplete information in the database, and negative impact on your organization’s productivity. Effective training is planned and delivered at the right time, at the right level, and in the right place. High-tech web-based, multimedia tools can be a very efficient and cost effective training option for your staff, and should be accompanied by a high-touch connection that includes mentoring from your senior, experienced staff members.

Technology Guidelines

From a software perspective, a secure web-based solution is desirable and should be based on a standard commercial or open-source database along with development languages that are endorsed and supported by your organization. We also recommend that you implement solutions incorporating robust reporting and business intelligence tools to ensure that you can efficiently mine the data. There are a number of installed (in-house) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS or hosted) commercially available solutions today.

Change Management

If your organization is considering migrating to a new IP management solution, do not underestimate the effort and resources required for a successful transition and the resulting impact to your organization. Effective change management best practices include:

  • Assuring that the appropriate energy, priority, and focus are maintained on your migration project until the desired results and key milestones have been achieved;
  • Planning to ensure that you have assembled the right skills and talent on the project team;
  • Striving continuously to provide feedback and open communication;
  • Establishing the foundation to relentlessly demand effective and reliable project execution; and
  • Through disciplined implementation, training, and follow-up, striving to institutionalize the desired changes from your systems migration effort.

Successfully commercializing a vast and diverse portfolio of technologies is an often daunting undertaking for technology transfer offices. World-class organizations seek out and capitalize on best practices within their offices and across the industry. We believe that properly utilizing your IP management database — while having the discipline to adhere to your processes and procedures — will have a positive impact on the overall success of your organization’s technology commercialization initiatives.

Jack Spain is a senior consultant with Fuentek, a consulting firm that provides intellectual property and technology management services. In addition to his role with Fuentek, he is the author of The IT Leadership Pyramid. Contact Spain at 919-249-0327 or

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