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IP Resources for the C-Suite

Are you putting intellectual property (IP) to work for your company? Those at the helm of both large and small companies recognize that safeguarding patented assets is crucial to developing and maintaining a competitive edge. In fact, 70 percent of business leaders who participated in a market research on patent attitudes study last year believe patents are good for innovation. And yet only one quarter of those decision makers feel patent savvy.

While you don’t necessarily need to be a patent expert, there are plenty of IP resources to help you and your fellow C-suite executives confidently evaluate your company’s IP strategy. To kick off a patent strategy discussion at your next board meeting, start with these five tips from IP-savvy sources:

Asses Your Company’s IP Awareness
The first step to understanding how IP can help your businesses succeed is to assess the overall awareness of your IP portfolio — or lack thereof. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers an online tool — The Intellectual Property Awareness Assessment — that covers categories ranging from IP strategies and best practices to international IP rights. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all there is to consider when it comes to intellectual property, this is a good place to start.

Learn What Can Be Patented
While you’re visiting the USPTO, you’ll notice they have a virtual treasure trove of resources for individual and corporate innovators alike, including tips on what can and can’t be patented. No matter what business you’re in — from wireless communications to healthcare — the products and business methods your company is innovating could become valuable sources of revenue and competitive advantage. Are you considering which of your business assets is patentable?

Keep Current on IP Law
A patent attorney will be your greatest asset, but there is some hope available for the rest of us laymen. For members of the C-suite, IPWatchdog is a blog to bookmark. Ranked one of the top 100 legal blogs by the American Bar Association, the site provides a wealth of information on the business, policy, and substance of patents and other IP. 

Own Your Intellectual Property
As soon as your company begins to develop a product or a business plan around an invention, you are creating IP. Entrepreneur suggests that the IP your company is developing should belong to the business — not the individuals behind the invention — where it can create value for the company.

And a few bonus tips from Entrepreneur: “Why Protecting Intellectual Property is Crucial to Business Success on 5 Counts.

Develop a Patent Strategy
Now that you’ve protected your company’s inventions, how do you generate a return on your significant investment? For example, a CEO of a VC-backed start-up may look at how building a strong patent portfolio weighs substantially in their company’s favor at IPO, or a CFO may source new R&D funding by divesting assets that are no longer strategic to the company. Either way, the right patent investments can play an important role in increasing the bottom line.

Becoming better informed on patent strategy is valuable, but there is also a growing industry of experts putting patents to work for the C-suite as well. Learn more about C-suite patent strategies and resources available through Intellectual Ventures


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Wishing Kymeta a Happy Anniversary

What do you get a company that within its first two years has experienced unprecedented success and growth? The tradition of paper just doesn't seem sufficient. Don’t take our word for it. Check out some of the announcements and media coverage from the past two years.

Wishing Kymeta a Happy Anniversary

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Discovery Corps Students Go Behind the Scenes at IV

As a longtime supporter of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, we were pleased to play host recently to a group of Pacific Science Center (PSC) Discovery Corps students. Discovery Corps’ goal is to inspire young people with a lifelong interest in science, math and technology. To learn what it takes to work on the forefront of invention, we invited the students to tour IV’s Lab and visit with our president, COO and PSC board member, Adriane Brown. 

Discovery Corps Students Go Behind the Scenes at IV

 

Enthusiastic and full of questions, the students made the most of their visit inquiring about everything from what the job of a company president entails to how IV is helping eradicate malaria. Discovery Corps student Nathan Johnson had this to say about his visit:

“…I thought it was amazing that even though their ideas would seem far-fetched to the normal person, they were able to think ‘outside the box’ and do amazing things advancing technology. They invented lightweight antennas using metamaterials (materials artificially made with properties not found in nature), a more efficient nuclear reactor using nuclear waste, a super cold thermos for vaccine preservation, a powerful 500 core computer used for disease spread simulations, and a mosquito killing laser made specifically to take out malaria (by shooting the female mosquitoes only)…”

 

 

We couldn’t agree more with Nathan. If Discovery Corps students are any indication of the future of STEM, it looks awfully bright.

Additional information on IV’s support of STEM education can be found at Project Eureka!.


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Inventor Superhero: Claude Shannon

Just like Marvel Comic’s heroes, inventors venture into unexplored territory, overcome obstacles, and improve the world around them. Tinkering away in their invention lairs, inventors make the real-life gadgets that crack codes and save the world. They have the brainpower to solve complex problems that ordinary citizens can’t match. And like our most beloved superheroes, inventors inspire us to strive for ingenuity and pursue our dreams.

Inventor Superhero: Claude Shannon

Inventor Superhero: Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001)

Superpowers: Mathematics, cryptography, card tricks, unicycling, juggling

Eureka! Moment:  When Shannon was in his 30s, he showed that text, telephone signals, radio waves, pictures, film — any form of communication — could be encoded in bits. This universal language written in binary digits 1 and 0 is known as binary code. Shannon developed a theory that once information was transcribed in binary code, it could be perfectly transmitted without error. His theory made it possible to use bits in computer storage. Today, many communication lines are measured in bits per second.

Cool Gadget: The Ultimate Machine. Shannon built a box with a large switch on the side. When the switch is flipped on, the lid rises to reveal a mechanical hand. The hand then reaches down, turns off the switch, and withdraws, leaving the box in its original closed state.

Superhero Lair: Bell Laboratories and MIT

Childhood Hero: Thomas Edison, who was Shannon’s distant cousin

Nemesis: Groupies. In his 1956 paper The Bandwagon, Shannon declared that Information Theory was being oversold. “It has perhaps ballooned to an importance beyond its actual accomplishments,” he wrote.

Test Your Abilities: Do you have Shannon-like superpowers? Crack this binary code and tweet your answer to @IVInvents: 01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111.


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IV’s Favorite Inventions: Animatronics

Inventions come in all forms and sizes: microscopic robots that break apart clots in a blood vessel, space shuttles, and agricultural processes. At Intellectual Ventures, we pay homage to many of them. Our hallways are lined with inventions — we have antique typewriters and fire hose nozzles, the evolution of the mouse trap in patent drawings, and a cipher machine. But what’s a dinosaur bust doing in our invention collection?

IV’s Favorite Inventions: Animatronics

Talk to anyone who’s visited our office, and they’ll reference the collection showstopper: a synthetic Tyrannosaurus rex head with an eerily familiar face — it’s one of the T. rex models used in the movie Jurassic Park.

IV’s founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold is the ultimate dinosaur hobbyist — he’s published paleontology research findings, funded fossil excavations, and been on set at Jurassic Park filmings. But the T.rex is more than a memento; it's a symbol of robotic innovation.

Animatronics, a kind of robot, uses mechatronics to create machines that look animated rather than robotic. Powered by pneumatics and in some cases hydraulics or electrical means, animatronics can imitate muscle movements.

These specialized robots date as far back as Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions, but it wasn’t until the early 1960s that Walt Disney popularized animatronics in entertainment.

Disney and his team of Imagineers invented Audio-Animatronics. One of the earliest uses can be seen today in Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Audio-Animatronics made its first appearance in film with the two birds Robin and Umbrella in Mary Poppins.

Other silver screen superstars, including Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, put animatronics in the limelight. You’ll notice animatronics taking center stage in classic films such as Jaws, Star Wars, and of course Jurassic Park.

Some Jurassic Park dinosaur creations, including the T. rex, were full-sized dino bots, but because of the cost involved in creating them most animatronics were just the animal’s upper or lower half. The rest was left to another important tech innovation — computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Spielberg combined animatronics with CGI to bring many of his dinosaurs to life. The article “20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Jurassic Park” gives a great example of how CGI and animatronics engineers worked together to create the film’s final T. rex scene. 

With the onset of more cost-effective CGI technology, the film industry abandoned its animatronic creations seemingly overnight. But there are still long-time animatronics fans who believe that, as robotic technology becomes more affordable, robots will make a comeback.

Whether or not animatronics is extinct in Hollywood, robotics is alive and evolving at Intellectual Ventures. Learn how we’re helping a new generation of robot-enthusiasts bring their bot-building ideas to life.


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IV’s Founders and President Applaud TROL Act on Frivolous Demand Letters

In a letter this week to lawmakers in Congress, the founders of Intellectual Ventures strongly endorsed legislation that would penalize those who threaten law-abiding businesses with frivolous and often fraudulent “demand letters” that allege patent infringement.

IV’s Founders and President Applaud TROL Act on Frivolous Demand Letters

“Specious demand letters targeting America’s small businesses are not a naturally occurring feature of a well-functioning marketplace for invention,” wrote IV’s founders and president in support of the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters Act, a bill authored by Rep. Lee Terry, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

“The TROL Act is a positive step toward ending abusive demand letters,” IV’s founders wrote, calling the measure a “balanced, targeted bill” that would attack an increasingly widespread problem while preserving the ability of legitimate patent owners to communicate lawfully about genuine concerns over infringement.

The bill identifies a list of deceptive and misleading demand-letter practices, and it authorizes the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to seek penalties against those who engage in them. 

IV’s founders also encouraged lawmakers to pursue additional targeted reforms, such as measures to protect small businesses that innocently buy off-the-shelf equipment and use it for its intended purposes.

Click here to read the full letter.


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IV’s Favorite Inventions: Cipher Machines

If you ever visit Intellectual Ventures’ offices, you’ll notice that a few interesting inventions make their homes in our hallways. One of these looks like a typical typewriter — in fact, you would likely pass by it without a second glance, if you noticed it at all.

IV’s Favorite Inventions: Cipher Machines

But beneath its unexceptional appearance lies a technology that is anything but ordinary. This is an example of a T-52 cipher machine.

No, we’re not talking about the villain from the Matrix movies. A cipher, more or less, is an algorithm used to encrypt a message. In order to fully appreciate the T-52, let’s take a journey through the evolution of this invention.

One of the earliest recorded ciphers is the Caesar shift cipher, which as legend has it, was used by Julius Caesar in his private messages. To illustrate this cipher’s process, let’s look at a simple message: HELLO WORLD. If the letters are shifted by one place in the alphabet, they read: IFMMP XPSME. This is a message encrypted with a Caesar shift of one place.

Fast forward to the 1460s, when Italian architect Leon Alberti came up with an idea. Why not alternate alphabets to encrypt a message? Instead of just using one alphabet, perhaps two would be better. Why not take it one step further and use several alphabets to encrypt a message? To decipher such a message, Alberti devised a disk that included two concentric copper rings, each with an alphabet printed on it. The two discs could be independently rotated so the alphabets would have relative positions to each other, with the outer ring featuring the plaintext alphabet and the inner ring representing the cipher alphabet — the alphabet you would use to write your secret message. As long as the recipient knew to shift the rings to the correct place, they would be able to decode the message.

Encryption machines continued to improve in the centuries that followed. By the World Wars, machines such as the Enigma — invented by Arthur Scherbius — were light weight, electrical, and played an important role in communications by governments and their militaries. They also spurred the creation of other inventions to aid in cracking their codes.

The cipher machine in our hallway, the T-52 Geheimschreiber, was developed by Siemens & Halske, but based largely off the Enigma concept. It was invented by August Jipp, Ehrhard Roßberg, and Eberhard Hettler in 1930. Used alongside Enigma machines, the T-52 assisted in not just static printed messages, but also in tele-printer (telex) messages. About 380 machines survived the war, including the one on display at IV’s headquarters.

Now that you know the history of cipher machines, imagine the types of messages that might have passed through their keys. While the cipher in our hallway might still look like a standard typewriter, the story behind the invention makes it one of IV’s favorites.

To learn more about inventions in history, read about one of the inventor community’s most famous code crackers: Hedy Lamarr


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Who Inspires You to Innovate?

Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration. Anyone who’s tried to transform an idea into a product knows that ratio holds true for invention. While innovation may begin as a flash of genius, it takes hard work to move from idea to proof of concept to working product, and there are moments of both failing and rejoicing along the way.

Who Inspires You to Innovate?
At work in the Intellectual Ventures electronics lab.


Whether you’re a lone inventor or working at an innovative company, you can find encouragement and support in the inventor community and those who’ve survived the journey from Eureka! moment to finished product.

To fuel your innovation inspiration, heed a few words of wisdom from inventors past and present.

For more inspiring insights from the inventor community, visit Project Eureka!

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Everything Ventured, Everything Gained

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 reached the moon. 45 years ago, man took his first steps there. Today we’re reminded of how fast technology can develop in the right environment and the distance that invention can take us when inventors, investors, big and small companies, governments, universities and communities work together.

Edward Jung, IV founder and CTO, calls the Apollo program a historical example of the impact of collaborative invention:

 “The Apollo space program created a $25 billion (more than $150B in today’s dollars!) innovation economy and put a man on the moon in less than a decade — thanks to the cooperation of government and industry, the individual and the team.”

To give this accomplishment more context, travel back with us seven years before 1969 to 1962, when President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at Rice University in Houston, TX.

His main focus was to persuade Americans to support NASA's mission in the space race. At the time of his speech, no one had ever completed a spacewalk, the U.S. had only first put a man in space the previous year, and we hadn't yet fired a rocket capable of sending a mission to the moon.

Needless to say, we had a long way to go in order to reach this distant and little-known frontier. And that's where the importance of the inventive spirit kicked in. Look where it led us:

Exploration is at the heart of invention, and as venturers we're building a marketplace that will encourage even greater leaps. Learn about the modern-day challenges and opportunities made better through invention on everything-ventured.com.

 


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What Not to Miss In the Insights Archive

We combed the IV Insights blog archive for the most read posts. From IP strategy to geek masterminds, take a look at a few reader favorites that you won’t want to miss.

What Not to Miss In the Insights Archive

The Next Age of Invention
The “lone genius” model of invention has a problem with scale. How will we solve long-term, large-scale problems? Here’s IV Founder and CTO Edward Jung on the importance of cooperation.

5 Inconvenient Truths About Patent Reform
If you listen to a rising banter of critics, you might think that patents are killing innovation. Here’s another perspective from the man who coined the term “patent troll.”

Inventions to Startups: Coffee Flour is off to the Races
Can good IP strategy spur new business? Learn how Intellectual Ventures Invention Development Fund used an IP portfolio to helped launch startup company CF Global.

Software Patents: Just Because it’s in Code Doesn’t Mean it isn’t an Invention
Within the loud and often incoherent chorus of anti-patent “reformers,’’ there’s a particularly shrill sub-group who rails against software patents. Are you among them?

10 Must Reads for Inventors
Curious about invention? Check out the list of IV’s must-reads among the inventor community.

Which Geek Mastermind Are You?
Are you more like Einstein or Tesla? Just for fun, take a quick quiz to find out which inventor you share a wavelength with.

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Russ Merbeth

Russ Merbeth

Russ Merbeth is chief policy counsel for Intellectual Ventures.

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