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Invention Harvesting – It’s Not Just for Crops

Posted by Justin Schwechter | May 07, 2024 | 0 Comments

What is an Invention Harvest?

In a field of inventions, your team is the best tractor. So strap on your overalls, lace up your boots, grab your pitchfork, and let's get to work!

To understand the best practices behind an invention harvest, one needs to first understand what an invention harvest is.

When taken as a noun, an invention is a unique or novel device, method, composition, idea, or process.

Stated another way, an invention is the taking of a concept or idea and bringing it to fruition in a tangible medium.

When taken as a verb, a harvest is the process or period of gathering, such as with crops.

Cumulatively, an invention harvest can be understood as the concept of gathering inventions or inventive ideas from other people.

What is an Innovation Harvest?

Innovation harvesting is very similar to invention harvesting, but special attention needs to be paid to that first word.

When taken as a noun, innovation is a new method, product, or idea.

Stated another way, innovation is when a reward for creative thought or invention is achieved. As such, an innovation harvest can be taken to express the process of gathering innovative ideas from others. Some companies call this a “hack-a-thon.”

The primary difference between invention harvesting and innovation harvesting is that innovations can include concepts or ideas that either may not become tangible or cannot be patented.

Throughout this and the forthcoming articles in this series, reference will be made specifically to invention harvesting, but you, the reader, should understand that all of the topics discussed are equally applicable to both types of harvest.

Why Should I Have an Invention Harvest?

The purpose of an invention harvest is to generate solutions to problems – specific problems, company-wide problems, industry-wide problems, and even potentially world-wide problems. The process of harvesting permits people of different backgrounds to provide disparate viewpoints to the problems and subsequent solutions, thus increasing the potential for generating novel concepts. Invention harvests often lead to patentable ideas.

More specifically, the invention harvesting process is intended to capture inventions or inventive ideas prior to the one-year public disclosure bar date for patentability. One of the primary goals of an invention harvest is to generate intellectual property (i.e., the information or material owned or controlled by an assignee) for a company that might turn into intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets).

How Should I Determine if I Should Hold an Invention Harvest?

Step 1: Determine the Goals of the Company

The priority when harvesting inventions is to lay out the primary objective of the harvest. Is the purpose to improve on inventions that already exist? Is the purpose to invent something entirely new within your field? Is the purpose to invent something entirely new to the whole world?

Identifying this objective will help lead the invention harvest in the desired direction and prevent inventive minds from wandering too far from this path. However, being too strict about what the precise objective is may stymie the inventive process as inventors form ideas but refrain from sharing them because they feel that these ideas do not fall within such a strict set of guidelines.

Step 2: Consider Solutions That Already Exist

You have decided on the primary objective, but do you believe you are the only one to have isolated the problem at hand? Competition within the field may have realized that this problem exists as well, so you can look at what the competition is currently doing, or has previously done, to address such a problem. Is their solution complete? Are there improvements that can be made to their solutions? Has the competition patented any of these solutions, and if so, are there ways you can create solutions that work around the claims associated with the competition's inventions?

You may want to dive even deeper into this subject, such as reviewing the level of innovation of the competition. If the competition has cornered the market for solving a specific problem and is continuously making improvements to their solution (perhaps owning intellectual property in the space which may be sussed out via a patentability search), you may want to move in an entirely different direction. Once these questions have been answered it is time to form your team.

Step 3: Form Your Team

Who should be involved in the team? This depends on the problem to be solved, and how great a net needs to be cast to solve such a problem (e.g., specific, company-wide, industry-wide, and worldwide problems).

If the objective is to innovate within the industry, everyone in the company should have a say. Differing experiences of different people beget disparate solutions to the same problem. While not all ideas can be winners, a larger influx of ideas means that some optimal solutions may rise to the top.

If the objective is to invent a solution for a more specific problem, a dedicated team should be formed to be devoted to the cause. Such a team should already have training within the field and experience working on solutions within the same realm as the problem under current review.

Invention harvesting for more specific problems necessitates a smaller team than innovation harvesting for more general problems but at a greater resource cost. At this point, the team culture and interactivity need to be taken into account. How will individual team members interact with one another? What experience level in invention harvesting do the team members already have?

Step 4: Choose a Leader

Now you have a team, but who is going to keep the team organized and on track? The next step for an invention harvest is to choose a facilitator for the group. If you are working with a law firm for an invention harvest, the attorneys and agents will likely be the leaders and direct the conversation. The purpose of the facilitator is to pull ideas from the minds of the team members as well as guide the team on both an individual and group basis. The leader should be inquisitive and engaging.

People tend to overthink ideas and refrain from presenting them if they do not think they are exactly what is desired from the harvest. However, even if they are correct in this regard, their ideas could solve other problems that are not currently being considered. These supplemental ideas may even include additional patentable subject matter.

It is the duty of the facilitator to pull all of this information from the team members and identify what is or may be useful. Similar to the choice of team members, the anticipated interactions between the facilitator and team members, as well as the facilitator's past experiences with invention harvests, should be taken into consideration when deciding who this leader will be.

Step 5: The Devil's in the Details

Now that the goal is set, the team is formed, and the leader has been chosen, it is time to fill in the finer details of the invention harvest.

·         How frequently are the meetings to be held?

·         How much time should be devoted to each meeting?

·         Where are the meetings going to be held?

o   Should there be a dedicated room so that team members come to associate the space with invention?

·         What is the total budget that can be devoted to the invention harvest?

o   What is the monetary budget?

o   What is the manpower budget?

o   What is the time budget?

·         What other projects do the team members and the leader have that they need to devote time to which could interfere with a recurring invention harvest?

Once these questions have been answered, the invention harvest is ready to go on the calendar. For best practices on how to hold a successful invention harvest, look forward to our forthcoming article. For best practices on how to hold a successful invention harvest, look forward to our forthcoming article.

How Gallium Law Can Help

The practitioners of Gallium Law are experts in the field of intellectual property and have conducted many invention harvests. If you or your team would like to have an invention harvest and would like our team to help, please fill out this online form or call us at 651-256-9480 to schedule a consultation.

*The information in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied on. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is meant as a starting point in your search for answers to your legal questions.

About the Author

Justin Schwechter

Justin Schwechter is a patent agent at Gallium Law. He is a registered U.S. patent agent. Before joining the Gallium Law team, Justin interned with Dorsey & Whitney LLP...

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