Invention Harvesting

Invention harvesting typically involves talking with people about what they have been working on. What have you done? What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them? Why is that different? What made you think to do it that way? How was it done before, and why didn’t anyone do it this way previously? How will this help meet the needs of the project owner?

Once you get a person to reflect on his work by thinking along these lines, the ideas will flow. Even better, a group discussion often produces a synergistic effect: When one person volunteers an idea, others begin to remember other details, setting off a chain reaction of invention disclosures. In the construction context, the group may include participants from the various contributors to a given project. 

An invention prospector working with innovators can capture these ideas quickly and easily by filling out a simple invention disclosure form on the fly, and supplementing it with documents that the innovators may already have produced in the course of their work.

Anyone can be an invention prospector, but there are advantages to having a patent attorney do the digging. In addition to experience with teasing out innovations, a patent attorney can ask other questions critical to patentability, such as questions about inventorship and invention ownership.

Also, since time works against the inventor in the patent process, a patent attorney knows to ask about events that may have triggered a patent filing deadline, and about foreseeable events that could jeopardize potential patent rights.

You cannot protect innovation that you fail to recognize. Invention harvesting is an efficient way to capture the innovations inherent in your work, and yet is not practiced as widely or consistently as it should be. 


About the Author

">Tom Tuytschaevers is a patent attorney who also enjoys teaching IP to graduate business students. He was in-house patent counsel at a large national technology company for ten years, where he worked closely with the engineering community on a daily basis.  He was a practicing engineer prior to law school.

Attribution is © 2012 Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP, Reprinted by permission.