Prospecting the Inngot approach to intellectual property

Sunday 24th May 2009
Courtesy: Inngot

Set against a rise in demand for patents, where the backlog is threatening the patent system, a new IP database web Inngot has also opened its doors. "Our main aim is to help SMEs (initially in the UK) who have innovative products and services, but whose ability to grow is restricted by the difficulty of finding partners, customers, collaborators or indeed finance," says founder Martin Brassel.

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Recession, collapsed banks and parliamentary meltdown are a rich and demanding background for the emergence of new ingenious products and services.  European Patent Office president Alison Brimelow is on record  recently to  a gathering of patent lawyers, technology transfer experts from universities and corporate executives, that the demand for patents in western economies is relentless and continues to rise, especially in Asia.

In itself that demand poses threats to the system. “Patents are all about being open and clear. If you have volumes of unapproved patents pending the system can’t be open and clear,” she said.

If patent offices round the world coordinated efforts more it could help tackle relentless demand, she said, as failure to cooperate results in wasteful duplication of efforts. The five most important patent offices, US, Japan, China, South Korea and EU, have begun 10 projects intended to serve as building blocks for a global patent system.These include attempts to harmonise patent classifications; training of patent examiners, and how patents are searched. A further idea is helping examiners to connect to each other, for example with a version of Facebook.

How to showcase IP and where to find it 
Companies or individuals with unique products or services that have developed proprietary software or processes; or where trade secrets and specialist knowledge underpin business - could find  Inngot helping them locate customers, partners and funding.

This new online marketplace enables businesses to showcase their intellectual property (IP) in a secure environment and use it to find customers, partners and funding. From mid-May, companies can use Inngot to record and publish their IP in minutes.

The company's speed and efficiency are due to a brand new classification system, Goldseam, which can describe business activities and IP in detail, yet without disclosing trade secrets. Once classified this way, a company can use its IP to attract new business and identify development opportunities.

Inngot claims to be  quick to use and cost effective. Annual membership, plus registration of a company and a set of IP assets is just £75. Other services  to be introduced shortly include a technology monitoring service and an indicative IP valuation model.

The company is co-founded by Martin Brassell (right) and (left) Professor Iwan Davies. Brassell has extensive experience of database-driven companies gained through senior positions at Transax, Equifax and HPI; Professor Davies, a barrister who holds the Hodge Chair in Asset Finance Law  is one of the UK’s leading academics in this field. The venture’s innovative approach has earned it a SMARTCymru award from the Welsh Assembly Government, and funding from Finance Wales.

Comments Brassell: “Inngot complements statutory registration regimes in two ways. Firstly, patents in particular require IP to undergo a lengthy review process prior to publication. With Inngot we are particularly interested in the underlying copyright, which the business already owns, and which is the key law underpinning software. Accordingly we can classify and publish in real time, then let the market determine how novel and useful an IP asset is.”

“Secondly, IP is the fundamental source of value in knowledge-based businesses. Inngot offers companies a system that can explain what makes them unique and different, at a time when the need to understand assets is critical. It’s this clear definition that enables us to publicise this IP to attract business and investment – all in a secure online marketplace.”

Any company originating IP will be able to use Inngot to promote it, and the emphasis on copyright means the range of intellectual assets that can be registered is very broad. In particular, it is not limited to businesses holding patents, trademarks and registered designs, 97,000 of which have been recorded at the Intellectual Property Office in the last two years*.

As well as the obvious appeal to venture capital firms, Inngot believes its database of IP will also appeal to finance houses and brokers looking to provide funding for intellectual assets. Accountants, law firms and any company wishing to track technology developments can also use Inngot as a platform for innovation and exchange.

Inngot’s arrival also fits the conclusions of a significant review of UK IP policy by Andrew Gowers’ report for HM Treasury and the driving need to develop a robust UK framework to promote innovation in a digital age.

Comments Professor Davies: “The knowledge economy has been vital to UK plc for some years. Clever innovation, new technologies and new knowledge-intensive industries are critical to driving the country out of recession. IP is the hard currency of the knowledge economy, and Inngot will be at the vanguard of promoting it through classification, marketing and value creation.”

Innovation networks are also warming to the Inngot concept  Founding director of the SPARC Technology Network, Milton Keynes, Chris Dunkley, says : “Many innovative businesses are reliant on software which is difficult to protect or describe. Inngot provides our members with a means of explaining what makes them special, so that we in turn can bring their IP to the attention of a wider audience.”

IP essentials
For your IP to have real value, it needs to be clearly and unequivocally owned by you. It's vital to take adequate steps to protect your knowledge and technology when entering into discussions with a third party, or incorporating materials which were developed by anyone who is not an employee of your business. Accordingly Inngot has drawn up a series of documents for innovative businesses to use as a resource for concluding agreements. The first set to be released cover two key aspects.

Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreements 
Available in two formats. These are a Free standard confidentiality agreement intended for use between organisations, with a number of optional clauses depending on the nature of  the disclosure envisaged, and a standard confidentiality agreement with a disclosure agreement.

Copyright Assignments
Available in two formats. Free assignment of past copyright: for use when third party know-how is included within products or services you wish to market. This incorporates a non-disclosure provision. Assignment of past copyright agreement and free assignment of know-how: for use when third party know-how is included within products or services you wish to market. Incorporates a non-disclosure provisio.

Finance, accountancy & law
Ingot will also  help financiers in an asset finance company  interested in working with successful knowledge-based companies, to find customers and win business. For corporates looking for new technologies, systems and processes to help in their businesses, Inngot will help locate  this.  And it  provides professional accountancy and law firms with benefits too.

A financing body behind Inngot comments: “Intellectual property is highly valuable to a business and Inngot’s new system allows businesses to showcase their ideas, without giving away too much about the specific IP. We’re pleased to be investing in a business that has the potential to develop other businesses IP and commercialisation.”

Global search or local discovery?
Any observer of IP business however knows that one of the biggest problems is a multiplicity of resources and databases. In Scotland any technical innovation  developing or looking to be licensed, can be located through University Technology.

Research into IP also implies considering Patent Offices for both new applicants and granted patents. One good source of site-links is LLRX  Law & Technology sources for legal professionals.

But Inngot founder, Brassell is well aware of all these considerations. "Though it can accommodate all types of IP, Inngot isn't primarily aimed at early stage university research or the 'Rembrandts in the attic' patent portfolios sitting unused in major corporates," he says.

"If you look at all the other existing websites like e-IP, SparkIP  or yet2.com, you will find they are all directed at one or both of these markets. You'll also find that them primarily focused on patents rather than other forms of IP. What they do is very useful, but seeks to meet a different need for a different set of enterprises (who also happen, in most cases, to be in the US).

"Our main aim is to help SMEs (initially in the UK) who have innovative
products and services, but whose ability to grow is restricted by the
difficulty of finding partners, customers, collaborators or indeed finance.

"We believe there is an opportunity to change the way lenders look at
intangible assets in general, and intellectual property in particular, in
terms of using it as security in support of fundraising.

"Inngot has a number of services in preparation at present which will establish a framework to make these deals easier to do. The key part we have done first is create a classification system that makes it possible for lenders to understand the nature of these assets. 

(We can supply any number of statistics  illustrating the problems relating to finance in particular, though you probably have plenty of your own!)" Brassell jokes.

"While you can record references to patents and indicate their development stage on the Inngot site, we are primarily looking to help business make more of its copyright IP, trade secrets and proprietary processes.

Naturally if a company thinks it has something patentable, but has made no official filing, it needs to exercise care in what it registers with Inngot: under all other circumstances, a registration complements whatever other rights they may already have."

As Patent Offices struggle to cope with demand, an IP prospecting swell could be on for Inngot too.

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