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Do good inventor reward schemes result in better inventions?

In Germany, inventor reward schemes have been enshrined in law, not so in the Netherlands or Belgium. Nevertheless, a great number of organisations in those countries do operate a reward programme. Does a reward scheme promote quantity and quality when it comes to inventions?

Improved competitive position
A good reward scheme encourages employees to come forward with new ideas and helps businesses to identify their intellectual property more easily. When introduced, these schemes first and foremost tend to bring about an increase in the total number of inventions. This will go hand in hand with a higher number of truly valuable inventions and in turn, a higher number of promising patent applications. The indirect effect of a good reward scheme is reflected in an accelerated development phase for products. Over time, a good reward scheme will improve overall awareness within a business with regard to intellectual property and enhance its competitive position further still.

Ewan van Minnebruggen
Team leader Intellectual Property/Belgian Patent Attorney
Atlas Copco Airpower

No added creativity
It does not seem to me that extensive reward programmes have a great impact on the inventor’s ingenuity. Our company did not offer bonuses for a few years and it didn’t adversely affect the number of inventions. On the other hand, if a patent is granted, it can only be a good thing to reward the inventor or team. As far as I am aware, the rewards offered tend to be modest. Perhaps a 1000 euros or an extra monthly salary. Another reason for operating such a programme is that inventors leaving the company will keep in touch. US procedures for granting patents often require a signature from the inventor that was involved. If the relevant person still has a link with the business as a result of the bonus, they will be easier to track down.

Stefan Brouwer
Senior Research Engineer
Mirror Controls International

Put the topic on the agenda
I am unsure as to whether having a programme leads to more and better quality inventions. But it certainly is essential for innovative organisations to have patent applications on their agenda. If inventors are only rewarded for products or solutions, organisations are highly likely to miss out on key opportunities to obtain patent protection. I have noted how in companies that offer specific rewards for patent applications and that give recognition, innovators demonstrate an enthusiasm that proves contagious. This approach constitutes worthwhile compensation for the time spent working on a patent application. Universities often have similar schemes in place. Instead of patent applications, their focus is on scientific publications. A high quality application always requires a considerable effort on the part of the inventor or inventors. That is why it is important for them to recognise the value of applying for a patent.

Kim Tan
Patent Attorney
V.O. Patents & Trademarks

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