Open innovation and intangible assets

It is important that you protect your intangible assets when you collaborate and openly share ideas and knowledge.

Open innovation is when an innovation process involves several actors in order to shorten the time for development work. For example, in a collaboration, a small company can bring cutting-edge expertise that can match the needs of a larger company. In return, the smaller company gets to share in a broader competence and sometimes a test environment for its technology

A common misconception is that the word "open" means that you would not be interested in monitoring your innovations, because you think that it is a matter of free sharing anyway. Of course it may be a matter of free sharing, but it also requires that you own something that you can share. In that case, intangible property becomes important. Choose what you want to share and also consider whether you need to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Patents and open innovation

In open innovation, patents play an important role. They serve as a certificate of what has been developed in the past and make it possible to talk freely about the technology. A collaboration or a deal is facilitated by pre-packaging the technology in patents, which can then be licensed or sold.

Since the patent describes the technology developed, it will also be easier to see who is contributing what in a collaboration. It is just as important to manage what the parties invent jointly. It can also be managed through patents.

How do you become part of open innovation?

Here are some examples of how open innovation networks can be formed and looked like. You can become a part of open innovation through, for example:

  • describing your development needs on an internet-based platform where others can match your particular need for development, so-called crowdsourcing.
  • crowdsourcing allows you to invite others to come up with a solution to a problem.
  • participating in large collaborations with several companies and academic institutions.
  • to merge with one or more other companies and put your own selected patents in a common pool, patent pool. Companies in the patent pool can license or exchange patents with each other.

A good collaboration requires an agreement

It must be clear who owns which intangible assets, who can use them and in what way. Therefore, you should sign an agreement. In the case of open innovation, it is important that you agree on:

  • what intangible assets you contribute (in English referred to as background),
  • what will happen to what you create jointly (foreground),
  • what will happen to what each company develops on its own during the project (sideground);
  • what will happen after the project is completed (postground).

Before you sign a cooperation agreement, it may be useful to draw up a confidentiality agreement, which regulates what confidentiality covers and for how long.

The rights to the common technology may then need to be regulated in further agreements.

More information on agreements

Support and more information

Agreement issues in open innovation can be complex. If you do not have a lot of knowledge yourself, we recommend that you use, for example, a business promoter.

Business promoters, tips on actors

Edited 2021-05-26