At the beginning of this month, we had a discussion with an IP insider on the cooperation issues between enterprises and IP firms. The IP insider mentioned that many professional IP firms fail to develop cooperation with their potential client because of their misunderstanding on clients’ requirements rather than the high demanding needs of potential clients. He also mentioned his confusion on IP consulting report during the discussion:
What kinds of IP consulting report are amazing?
Do all potential clients who need to conduct this kind of business have the ability to evaluate the related report quality?
What stage of the IP consulting services are clients able to make judgments?
Whether the client can make a judgment only after completing the projects? How to judge the merits of IP consulting report?
To address the above questions, figuring out the quality evaluation standards for IP consulting results is very meaningful. Generally speaking, there are many kinds of IP consulting services with complicated application scenarios, including risk analysis, patent layout consulting, technical support consulting, etc. In practice, enterprises will also face the same question in choosing IP consulting firms because of the service quality gaps in related IP firms in market.
As one of the first IP consulting firms who develop IP consulting services, Beijing Kangxin Huayuan IP Consulting Co., Ltd summarizes their project experiences based on its service cases during these years, and provides the following evaluation criteria for reference.
When judging the IP consulting results, it is supposed to consider “One principle” and “Three aspects”. “One principle” refers to the fundamental of the judgment, to be specific, whether it is able to grasp client requirements and solve customers’ issues. Meanwhile, in the implementation of IP consulting projects, the following “Three aspects” should be considered as a whole: 1) whether the client requirements are well-understood and identified; 2) whether the client requirements are continuous focused in the whole process; 3) whether the IP consulting results meet the client requirements in the end.
1. One Principle
About one principle: excellent IP consulting results should meet the client requirements and solve customers’ issues. We have admitted that there is subjectivity to some extent during the judging, so the basis for reaching the above conclusion should be as objective as possible. Specifically, it is supposed to judge whether the client requirements are satisfied and the issues are addressed, based on the customers’ initial requirements or issues, from the perspective of demand subject and demand content.
(1) Who represents the requirements of "client"?
When facing corporate client, we should confirm which department of the company represents their “client requirement”. This question is very important as “client” is the key element in the above judgment. When considering this question, we should not only consider the willingness of IP department but also the deep demands based on their function extension. In most companies, IP department is a functional department which serves the R&D, market and decision-making department, etc. IP consulting projects provide service to both IP department and other related department (R& D, market and decision-making department, etc.), so we should consider the unified demand or common demand of the above departments as a whole.
(2) Which requirements represent the willingness of the "client"?
Generally speaking, demands can be distinguished into technical requirements, strategic needs, layout planning needs, risk control needs, etc. Management departments pay more attention to strategic needs which can provide them with decision support for their business strategy and competition strategy. However, IP departments care more about layout planning and risk control, which means implement the competitive strategy of the management department during execution and effectively protect the technical achievements of the R&D departments from a legal perspective.
2. “Three aspects” in the project implementation
As mentioned above, “Three aspects” includes:1) whether the client requirements are well-understood and identified; 2) whether the client requirements are continuous focused in the whole process; 3) whether the IP consulting results meet the client requirements in the end. We’d like to share you with the following details.
(1) whether the client requirements are well-understood and identified
First of all, excellent IP consulting results are based on the accurate understanding and identification of customer needs, which is the first step of IP consulting.
To better understand the customer needs, it is necessary to fully understand the starting point and background of the project, which is what we commonly called “Business Intelligence”. Then, based on the above starting point and background, we’d better to find the answer of the following questions: what are the customers’ needs? What is the goal of the project? In addition, when serving enterprise customers, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of their operation background and their business mode, for accurately grasping their demands considering their competitive position in the market. Meanwhile, a sufficient understanding of how IP can support the goal makes it possible to accurately grasp the needs of customers under specific projects.
On the other hand, we should also try to understand the real requirements behind the text. Different clients’ needs may differ substantially on “the same project” (such as layout planning project) because they may have different focuses.
Sufficient communication is also one of the fundamental factors for better understanding the clients’ needs, including the communication at the beginning, during the whole process and at the end of the project implementation. What we need to figure out during these communications are as follows: who is the final demanders, the basic technical personnel, technical management personnel, IP management personnel, or senior management personnel? What are they key problems to be solved considering the specific demands based on the different final demanders? When facing technical personnel, how to figure out their real demands? What is the development background and progress of the project or product? What are the technical issues the technicians are facing and have particular interest? Related IP consulting project should make clear the scope of information collection and the focus of the research. And comprehensively considering the different requirements is also important when the requirements bodies are diversified.
In addition, the accumulation of project experience may have a certain impact on the understanding of the final demands. Without a clear understanding of how the project will be implemented and the likely outcome, it is unlikely that the client's needs will be correctly understood.
(2) Whether the client requirements are continuous focused in the whole process
Secondly, we need to focus on the client requirements during the whole process of the project implementation.
Why we need to focus on client requirements is that the client requirements may be not so clear or just a kind of directional requirements before the final information are acquired. However, new information and more specific information will constantly occur during the project process so that the client requirements will become more clear and specific. It is more obvious in IP consulting projects for supporting R&D and patent layout planning projects.
Take the IP consulting projects for supporting R&D as an example, in certain technical field, there will be different schools of cutting-edge technologies, and only one or two of which may ultimately be valuable to clients. Therefore, through continuous communication, we can better identify the technology the clients have specific interest and focus on these technologies, and thus conduct a comprehensive and in-depth research.
Another example is that, in the above-mentioned IP consulting projects, it is necessary to maintain continuous and effective communication with clients in the process. These communications can help us to focus on clients’ requirements by constantly clarifying and adjusting requirements according to information collection and gradually defining the focus and boundary of the requirements.
All of the scope of information collection and analysis, as well as the focus of R&D, are dynamic. Closer communication and contact with technical personnel, constantly adjusting the angle and scope of information collection and the focus of information research can be of helpful in focusing clients’ requirements and finding valuable information.
(3) Whether the IP consulting results meet the client requirements in the end
Thirdly, an excellent IP consulting report is able to meet the clients’ requirements and solve issues.
Regardless of the number of quantitative evaluation indicators, whether the results meet clients’ requirements or solve their issues is the most critical. After all, you cannot get client approval if the results are not able to address the above question.
For example, if IP consulting reports can provide with valuable technical information and valuable suggestions for the direction of R&D, the technical managers may think they are enlightened in determining or revising the direction of R&D because of the IP consulting results. Another example is that, technical management personnel may think the R&D and the corresponding layout play an important role according to a comprehensive analysis and the corresponding competitive strategy in the IP consulting report based on the competitor’s product, R&D, layout strategy, etc.
Overall, the IP consulting projects helps the technical personnel to improve the R&D efficiency, helps the IP management personnel to improve the layout planning level, helps the enterprise managers to prevent the risk of IP, and etc., which all meet the clients’ requirements.
To summary the above, “Three aspects” are: understanding clients’ requirements, focusing on clients’ requirements, and meeting clients’ requirements.
3. Common cases of disconnection from demand
There are some IP consulting reports with beautiful charts in IP field which are often criticized by clients. The reason why they are criticized is that they are not able to provide valuable services based on clients’ requirements. Hereunder are some common cases:
Case 1: the customer's requirements are not correctly identified and understood, and the information they provided is not matched with the client side.
Case 2: Only pay attention to the pursuit of the large and complete of the data and information, there is no focus during the whole analysis.
Case 3: Only pay attention to the pursuit of statistical analysis of data, instead of trying to effectively seek valuable information and in-depth analysis from the technical and layout strategy level.
Case 4: Only pay attention to the pursuit of beautiful graphic expression which can create an excellent expression form, but there is the lack of corresponding matching content.
The value of IP consulting is to help enterprises improve the level of IP management as a whole. IP consulting results should be able to accurately grasp clients’ requirements and accurately solve their issues. There will be a win-win during the whole IP consulting process when we can solve the clients’ issues or provide help during the issues solving.