Because innovation is such competitive business companies have to cooperate with R&D performers outside their company in order to keep producing innovative solutions. Proper intellectual property (IP) management in open innovation projects is therefore crucial when innovating through open approaches and old perceptions about IP have to be reevaluated. 

Intellectual Property in Open Innovation - Man reads book


The essence of Open Innovation (OI) is the transfer of knowledge between parties. Before you start your open innovation project you have to make sure that you create an adequate work environment for OI and that your employees are ready for knowledge sharing

At the same time, you have to ensure that the knowledge transfer is properly managed and it is advisable to do so at a very early stage of the innovative process. If you fail to properly manage your Intelectual Property, you risk the exploitation of your intangible assets. There are many ways by which you can protect your innovative ideas and all contain contractual mechanisms. 

The European IPR Helpdesk provides a helpful library of factsheets that help answer questions around your intellectual property rights, patents and licensing.  

Here is how the Helpdesk defines IP in the age of open innovation: 

“In the context of open innovation, intellectual property plays a new role which no longer reflects the usual defensive mechanism adopted by companies. More precisely, up until some years ago most of the middle cap companies have been making use of their patents to block competitors and to freely operate on the market. This defensive approach was based on the notion of patent as a negative right to exclude others rather than to enable innovation. Yet, contrarily to this perception, patent protection allows companies to commercialise their solutions and safely enter into R&D collaborations, with limited risks of seeing their intangible assets appropriated by their partner. Indeed, patents are extremely important for the innovative process since they protect and disclose at the same time.”

The Factsheet “Intellectual property management in open innovation” in particular aims at discussing necessary agreements regarding IP, like 

  • non-disclosure agreements 
  • Memorandum of Understanding
  • Consortium agreements
  • appropriate contractual agreements about jointly generated IP
  • licensing

Furthermore, it is fundamental to accurately allocate the IP owned by each party and then go on to IP valuation and due diligence. These actions help your organization to assess the value and the risks connected to your partner’s Intellectual Property. 

And to summarize it all, this is what open innovation stands for: 

“The use of external knowledge for a better management of internal knowledge, in order to reap the full benefit from the company’s intangible assets. On the other hand, open innovation does not mean freely putting at the R&D partners disposal the acquired knowledge, but sharing it with them to come up with a better competitive solution.”