“Taking any of these assessments should be the first step in a business owner’s or inventor’s journey in determining how well they know their own IP assets, exposure thereof, potential mechanisms to protect their IP, and how to better maintain their entire portfolio.”
The ipAwarenessAssessment (the Tool) is engineered for both business owners and inventors so that they can comprehensively value their intellectual property (IP) and manage their IP portfolios accordingly. Developed as a joint effort by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology/Manufacturing Extending Partnership (NIST/MEP), the Tool allows a participant to assess their overall IP awareness, usage, and maintenance. The Tool itself is comprised of online multiple choice questionnaires where the pre-assessment contains five questions covering various types of IP; a customized assessment based on the answers provided during the pre-assessment that ranges from five to ten categories only relevant to the pre-assessment answers; and the full assessment which contains 10 categories and over 60 questions. These categories span a comprehensive spectrum of many aspects of IP and the individual questions are engineered to discover the user’s overall IP awareness.
The first question in each category is broadly designed to determine if the category is relevant to the user and if the individual taking the assessment needs additional information and training in the category. According to the brief About section, “if the response to the opening question of a category indicates that the individual is aware of the information covered in the category or if the category is not relevant or applicable, the Tool will skip to the next category.” There is also a third “not sure” option to most questions, which allows the user to indicate that they are not fully aware of the specific area in that category.
The pre-assessment, “containing five questions covering the various types of IP, allows a quick determination of potential IP of the user and provides an option for a customized IP assessment.” This assessment takes roughly 10-15 minutes to complete and is divided into give general categories: IP Strategies and Best Practices, International IP Rights, IP Asset Tracking, Licensing Technology to Others, and Using Technology of Others.
In order to access the pre-assessment within the Tool, a user will encounter a page similar to the image below:
Once selecting the pre-assessment button, the user is directed to the first of five questions—beginning with the most broadly worded question to the most particular. The below image demonstrates the first question:
These questions are easily digestible for the lay person and are tailored such that each type of IP is addressed. For example, the questions ask about physical products that would relate to potential patent protection. Additionally, the questions ask about written or recorded material, photography, and works of art that would relate to potential copyright protection. Trademarks, plant patents, design patents, software patents, and trade secrets are also addressed.
Once completed, the user is instructed to either complete the full assessment or continue to a customized assessment based on the user’s answers to the pre-assessment. As shown below, the pre-assessment reduces the categories of importance based on the user’s answers so that only those categories relevant to the user’s portfolio will be questioned during the customized assessment:
The Customized Assessment
The customized assessment takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete after the pre-assessment. The same five categories of the pre-assessment are questioned but more in-depth. For example, an IP Strategy and Best Practices Question may ask a user if they have investigated the IP of others before they launch a new product. Or, it may ask whether the user trains their employees to identify inventions they or their co-workers have created. Under the Licensing Technology or Content of Others category, the Tool asks whether the user has developed technology or content that other companies might be interested in using. Then, the customized assessment directs the user automatically to the categories identified by the pre-assessment. For example, in the simulation I conducted, the Trademarks category asked whether the user carried out occasional audits of their trademarks, their registrations, and the usage of those registrations. In addition, the simulation identified Utility Patents as a relevant category and asked whether the participant knew the difference between a provisional and a non-provisional patent.
The Full Assessment
The full assessment contains each of the five categories addressed in the pre-assessment as well as all of the additional categories: copyrights, design patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and utility patents—even if one or more of those categories do not apply to the user’s IP portfolio. Not all businesses have all categories of IP assets, so they have an opportunity to opt out of certain categories. The full assessment requires about 20-30 minutes to complete. An example of a full assessment question under the Exporting & International Rights Protection category is whether the user’s company has investigated the market opportunities and competitive threats in those countries where the user’s products or services are made and/or sold. Another question example, under the IP Asset Tracking Maintenance category, is whether the user evaluates their IP assets periodically to align their associated expenses with the strategic value to their company.
As shown below, the Tool produces a comprehensive, section by section, question response by question response analysis of the assessment(s). There are pages worth of useful and specific information and recommendations that make the effort invested in taking the assessments return ten-fold to the user. There are links to specific memorandums or USPTO web pages with further information on each response, and recommendations based on that response. The user may also save, email, or print the completed results to review whenever they wish. There is also an important reminder for the user to revisit and retake the assessment as often as necessary to maintain a healthy awareness of their IP portfolio.
A Good First Step
All told, the customized assessment may be the most useful of the assessments contained in the Tool because it only provides additional questions and information regarding IP that is relevant to the user. However, if the participant does not fully understand the questions and categories addressed in the pre-assessment, they may miss important information if they only take the customized assessment and not the full assessment provided by the Tool. Taking any of these assessments should be the first step in a business owner’s or inventor’s journey in determining how well they know their own IP assets, exposure thereof, potential mechanisms to protect their IP, and how to better maintain their entire portfolio.
It is important to note, as the Tool does in several locations, that the information provided does not constitute legal advice. Rather, the training materials and response to assessment questions is intended for providing general guidance and increasing awareness about potential IP in a participant’s business. Once you have completed this Tool, take it to a qualified IP professional for their opinion and recommendation. With this wealth of starter information, practitioners will be pleased by the user’s due diligence and attention to their IP!
Image Source: Deposit Photos
FImage ID: 30399737