Failure is an inevitable and often necessary part of the technology innovation process. Without the ability to experiment and take risks, there can be no true progress. When a new technology is being developed, it is common for there to be setbacks and obstacles along the way. This can range from a product not functioning as intended, to a company failing to gain traction in the market. But it is important to remember that these failures are not the end of the road, but rather a learning experience that can be used to improve and drive the development process forward. In fact, some of the greatest technological advancements have come from individuals and companies who were not discouraged by initial failures, but instead took them as opportunities to reassess and re-strategize. So, instead of viewing failure as a negative outcome, it is essential to embrace it as a natural and essential aspect of the innovation process.
However, not only should Inventors know that most successful inventions occur after first figuring out how not do something, but also that these failures can be a hidden source of value. Some might just think that failures are a forgone part of inventing and researching so as to overlook them when considering protecting their intellectual property. However, savvy entrepreneurs instead know that protecting the hard won knowledge from failures is an important part of an IP strategy. The failures can be disclosed and protected as claims in a patent application to help form a fence around important technology. Or, the failures can be excluded from patent filings so as to keep them as a trade secret, sometimes referred to as a negative trade secret.
In other words, depending on the business strategy, these valuable failures can be included in patent filings to create a fence around the most successful solution, or be excluded from disclosure and held as a negative trade secret.
Stay tuned for our next post that provides some questions to help the IP professional first identify valuable failures along the technology development path, and second to determine a protection strategy .