Securing intellectual property is a tricky problem. The growing trend towards open innovation methods makes it even more confusing. In reality what you’re trying to achieve is securing the value you can gather from the intellectual property.
Non-disclosure agreements are one way but those often make people unwilling to participate. You can attempt to give members of the focus group some benefit for keeping it quiet. Perhaps offer them some shares for the products? Or maybe just offer future cash payments contingent on it remaining secret? This is the carrot versus the stick of a non-disclosure agreement.
Bruce Schneier has said many times that secrecy can’t be the basis of security. Ideas get out. So you need layers that catch the failures of each other. That way no single failure will penetrate the barrier.
If one focus group can come up with the idea, another would also be able to come up with that idea. So instead of using focus groups to get ideas of ??how?? to solve a need use the focus group to accurately understand ??what?? will satisfy their need. A product or service is a ??how??. The customers don’t really care about ??how?? they just want their needs satisfied.
The specific ??how?? ideas that come from a focus group help you better understand ??what?? they are trying to accomplish and ??what?? will satisfy their needs. Its the innovators job to find the best ??how?? ways to satisfy all their needs related to the task they are trying to perform.
Every ??how?? idea covers less than 1% of the entire intellectual territory. This presentation explains that math. http://www.slideshare.net/MarkProffitt/predictive-innovation-overview
Using that technique you can uncover ALL the ??how?? ways to satisfy the needs for the task. With that information it is possible to then develop a layered approach to securing your intellectual property. One part of that can include patents.
OutCompete developed an approach and software that allows development of airtight patent fences around any valuable IP. this approach is based on thorough consideration of principles of protection of IP (after the patent is granted), as well as on research of patent trolls’ successes and techniques they use. So even if the 1% idea from the focus group leaks out you have built a patent fence covering the other 99%
The first layer was secrecy. The second layer is the patent fence. The next layer is flexibility.
Innovation = Satisfying Customers’ Unmet Desires. To produce the highest consistent value from innovation you must be satisfying unmet desires. When copy cats move in the pricing war begins. Its time to move quickly to the next area. With the complete innovation map you can both quickly and efficiently step to the next high value area. Plus you can do it in such a way that it builds on your strength which makes it harder and harder for others to copy cat you.
“The Mind of the OutCompete Strategist” by Len Kaplan describes strategies that do that. ??Fat Product, Lean Process?? and ??Catch Me If You Can?? are two strategies to build that third layer of security.
The forth layer is business models that benefit from sharing. Open Source projects have found business models that actually benefit from “giving it away”. The key element to these types of models is finding something not directly part of the intellectual property and can’t be easily copied, that is your unique competitive advantage. There are many ways to do this and the Predictive Innovation Method will uncover your unique competitive advantage.
When you are ready to secure the value of intellectual property, I can help you with each layer.