Innovation is one tenet, one cultural goal that the company has, and over time we’ve been stoking that, making sure that as we innovate more, we also protect those innovations. To be able to do that, given the small team that we have, you need a scalable platform, and Anaqua provides that. The entire company has access to an Anaqua. No matter what company it’s in, those people have access. It’s our job to be proactive and reach all the development programs that occur within Nielsen and to proactively work with them to identify those inventions that potentially are patentable, commercially important. Once we capture that, they submit, the review process starts, and given it’s first-to-file now, we have less time than ever. It’s much more crucial now to ensure that we protect things before there’s inadvertent disclosure to the public, before people talk and we lose the ability to protect those inventions.
All of that resident in the system that we can monitor, have follow-up. We bird-dog projects and use the task function to be able pick up and follow up on making sure, because we’re never really clear on those development projects when an invention will come, so we’re periodically continuing to go back and tag those project managers to see what they have that might be novel. Once we have that we need to move quickly, review those invention disclosures and get them to outside counsel as possible, as soon as there’s enough meat to be able to support a robust patent filing.
India, Malaysia, Japan, these are places where in fact we really haven’t had an outreach program. The system has provided a means by which an inventor anywhere globally can submit. Our invention intake has grown substantially. It continues to grow. Our conversion rate, because you have to manage to a budget, the system allows us to be able to support deciding what assets are worth investing in, and the end result is that since 2009 we’ve ramped our portfolio up. It’s now six times in the US what it once was, pre-Anaqua, and our grant rate on an annual basis in the US has gone up five times.
From a cost standpoint, the sooner you identify things that are wasteful, the better, and so to whatever extent a system like Anaqua provides us a means to make the best decisions we can make earlier … The sooner you do that, the more you save throughout the whole thing, because the costs associated with patenting just kind of build, they pile up, and you might have a certain budget, but the queue of pending assets is just an expense that’s on the meter, and it’s accelerating, because the patent office is accelerating how quickly they review patents. They’re getting rid of the backlog, and that cycle’s churning faster and faster, so the expenses are increasing, which means that we need an efficient means to go in there and review assets faster to decide are they worth continuing to invest in or do we kill them and manage to that and redeploy that money.
First to file sort of makes you want to jump faster, but if you lower your standards and you make that decision and you file on things that are in the margins, you’re going to hate yourself down the road, so the more information you have to make a better decision sooner, the more you’re more efficient, you manage to budget better, and you reserve the money to file on assets you might not yet have received, so the next invention tomorrow might be the best thing that you have to work with, and you need budget to be able to protect that, so managing costs is always a tension. Managing how quickly to turn ideas into patent filings … There’s always that tension involved.
Quality is important, and the system is also allowing us a means by which we can review the assets throughout the process and decide what to continue investing in, and to decide what assets are no longer relevant to the company, that we can cull and reinvest that money. Anaqua gives us the basis more and more, depending on how much information, good information we have in that system … It provides us a touchstone to be able to efficiently make those kind of decisions faster.