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Curtis Droege is the President at Tungsten IP. He is a mechanical engineer with over 20 years’ experience, a patent agent with over 15 years’ experience, and an inventor on 25 US patents and applications. His engineering expertise includes mechanical, micro-electronics, micro-fluidics, semiconductor processing, and nano-technology, specializing in inkjet printing technology. Curtis held the position of Worldwide Patent Manager for Lexmark International from 2009 to 2012, having responsibility for developing a high-value patent portfolio for Lexmark’s inkjet and laser printer products. In this role, he developed four teams consisting of 80 of the top engineers to guide the patent strategy, coach inventors, and evaluate invention disclosures.
Most recently, Curtis held the role of Vice President and Senior Underwriter for the world’s leading patent insurance firm, Intellectual Property Insurance Services (IPISC) located in Louisville, KY. This role provided insights into the intellectual property risks of hundreds of companies from pre-revenue to $1B, covering many different technologies. Curtis recently launched Invention Garage, in which he provides invention coaching via online channels such as InventionGarage.com, YouTube, and Facebook.
IPWatchdog readers know the importance of capturing IP, whether it is patents, trademarks, copyrights, or trade secrets. This article isn’t detailing technical tips for filing patents or how to corner a strategic area of the market; the difference between a good and a great IP Manager is leadership. Capturing IP is one of many responsibilities of the IP Manager that falls in the middle of functional silos within technology companies, resulting in cross-functional barriers that must be navigated to achieve any measure of success. While the goal is to create a strong IP portfolio, the business is people. When in the middle of functional silos, the IP Manager often relies on influence, not authority, to overcome cross-functional barriers. This requires true leadership.
In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, “Real Innovation Requires More Than an R&D Budget,” Dr. Gina O’Connor makes the case for having three capabilities for any innovation initiative: Discovery, Incubation, and Acceleration (DIA), in which R&D is only a portion of Discovery. In my experience with multiple companies, Discovery was allowed as long as Senior Management didn’t know about it, Incubation had a zero-dollar budget, and Acceleration only happened by chance. But since a few ideas made it out of the so-called “innovation pipeline”, there was the appearance that innovation was working. And I admit, the few ideas that made it into products were pretty good. Ours was a haphazard process at best, however. O’Connor further attempts to connect R&D to market value, which is admittedly difficult for those that have tried. It is nearly impossible from a third-party perspective, using only publicly available data. She asserts that the best third-party correlation occurs when there are dedicated innovation teams, and when the company goes public with their innovation efforts. But from my experience, connecting R&D to market value is much more complex.