In recent years, cloud computing has gained popularity as a technology that gives both organizations and consumers access to scalable computer resources and services on demand. As cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous, businesses operating in the space should develop an intellectual property (IP) strategy for protecting innovations. Due to the nature of cloud computing and the speed at which this industry is developing, however, it can be difficult to apply an IP strategy efficiently. In the context of agile development approaches like Scrum, which value adaptability and speed over formal planning and documentation, having and applying a well-tailored IP strategy can be challenging yet crucial. Businesses need to carefully assess how they can secure their IP in the context of agile software development methodologies while still leveraging the benefits they afford the business.
Scrum (or other agile software development methodologies) is a project management and execution framework that uses incremental and iterative work cycles. These development methodologies typically involve rapidly adapting to shifting needs when working on a software project, and leverage various resources for planning and monitoring progress of the software project. For businesses using Scrum releases for software development, the business’s IP strategy can be crucial because of the effect IP may have on the business’s ability to block competitors and earn revenue. As such, businesses which use Scrum releases or other agile software development methodologies should adapt their IP strategy to match the speed and agility of its environment. Businesses should implement protection strategies that protect IP rights before such releases, and routinely monitor and align the business’s product roadmap in view of the competitive landscape against their IP portfolio.
Below are three recommended strategies:
Businesses operating in a fast paced environment should implement an IP strategy which is also agile. This means that the business should take a proactive approach to their identification and protection of IP assets, rather than reacting to changes in the business on a micro-scale or changes in the marketplace on a macro-scale. Any time a new feature is identified for deployment, the business and engineering team should be consulting with the IP management or legal team to identify any potential IP assets for protection. Businesses should also monitor the marketplace to be up-to-date on market trends and competitor’s IP protection strategies.
Part of having an agile IP strategy involves quickly identifying and capturing rights. For example, with respect to patent protection for a new feature that is identified for implementing in an imminent product release, businesses can pursue cost-effective provisional patent applications which cover those new features rather than a lengthy review process. The provisional application provides one year in which the business can test the commercial value of the new feature(s) as well as any deliberation by an internal review process before incurring the expense of a more robust non-provisional patent application and examination of the same.
Businesses should regularly conduct IP reviews or audits of their IP portfolio to identify strengths and weaknesses of the scope of protection in view of its position in the marketplace. This should involve a strong understanding of where the product is and where the product is going in view of the commercial and competitive landscapes, and where the IP is focused relative to this view. Having patents covering a current iteration of a product is a good strategy. Having patents covering a sustainable and/or future competitive advantage of the product is an even better strategy. By continuously reviewing the IP portfolio, businesses can prune assets that may cover features which are no longer as relevant or strategic while prioritizing assets that cover more strategic competitive posturing.
Businesses which implement agile development strategies, such as Scrum releases or others, should have an IP strategy which is also agile and strategic. By being able to quickly protect IP assets and regularly reviewing their IP portfolio for strategic alignment, businesses can ensure that their IP assets cover the desired competitive posturing while being cost effective.