Invent. Disclose. Repeat.
Invention disclosures—which can lead to patents, trade secrets, and commercial licensing opportunities—give BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems sector a competitive edge in a demanding market, and ensure compliance while working under government contracts.
“We have a lot of very smart, highly motivated, technical folks working to advance state of the art every day,” Ed LaPalme, director of contracts in Electronic Systems’ (ES) Technology Solutions (TS) business area said. “As this breakthrough work is performed, inventions are often conceived, and it’s important for our employees to report these inventions so that we can protect them.”
The ability to win awards, create revenue, keep jobs, and continue our missions— “We Protect Those Who Protect Us®” and “We Innovate For Those Who Move The World™”— starts with the innovations and diligence of the company’s employees.
Significant ideas with defense and commercial relevance can be found in every project, Apurva Mody, group leader for the Dominance Awareness and Sharing program in the TS business area said. “Inventors just have to force themselves to think of things in new ways.”
Mody has filed more than a dozen patents during his 12-year career at the company. He never misses an opportunity to capture intellectual property, something he said is simple and necessary.
“In most cases, all that you’re doing at the end of the day is reforming a document or report that you’ve already written for the project and putting it into an invention disclosure,” he said.
Mark Carlson, engineering fellow and technical director in the Electronic Combat Solutions business area, holds more than 20 patents from his 36 years at the company and is a “huge believer,” in intellectual property protection.
“It doesn’t take that much time, and it helps to organize your thoughts and improve your understanding about specific topics,” he said of filing an invention disclosure. “At the end of the day, you end up with a better product, because it forces that rigor.”
Somit Mathur, program manager and product technical lead in the Survivability, Targeting & Sensing Solutions business area, said he considers invention disclosures a priority from the start and always has; a mindset he tries to share with his team and others.
With numerous patents to showcase from his 15 years at ES, he said the trick is to “submit disclosures early and often,” adding that the process becomes easier each time and keeps the company a leader in the industry.
“It shows customers that we are innovative and come up with new solutions when working with the government, and it can create a substantial revenue stream for the company,” Mody said.
Inventions resulting from IRAD efforts or government funding can be captured, with ES owning the patents in both cases. Additionally, under government funding it is required that all inventions be reported, regardless of whether or not a patent is filed.
Intellectual property generated by employees represents a large percentage of the overall value of ES.
“As a company, we need to continuously capture innovations and trade secrets, and file patents in order to protect our rights in the inventions and improvements that our employees create,” Scott Asmus, ES deputy chief counsel, intellectual property, said. “It is vitally important so that the company continues to thrive.”
All invention disclosures are reviewed by the sector’s Legal department and business leaders. During the review process, ES may choose to keep the invention proprietary, move forward to file a patent application, defensively publish, or preserve it as a trade secret.
Depending on how the company proceeds, inventors can receive up to $800 when an invention disclosure is approved to file with up to an additional $800 when a patent application is filed, or $400 when the trade secret is fully documented.
For inventions licensed for commercial application, inventors can receive a percentage of the profits received by the company.
“Having valuable intellectual property indicates that the inventor is a valuable asset to BAE Systems,” Asmus said. Plaques also are given to employee inventors when patents are issued, and portraits and plaques highlighting the achievements of local inventors can be found on display in many sites.
On top of the recognition, Carlson said that the “motivator” is much more than that.
“It’s really a matter of doing what’s right and preserving our edge in the market,” he said. “The value to the company is enormous, our employees protect us from giving away very valuable technology.”
By Ali Flewelling, Communications, Hudson, New Hampshire