A week of music at the Spoleto festival in Charleston South Carolina, a yearly tradition where I am immersed in classical music and jazz of all sorts from baroque to 21st century experimental pieces. After a few days of listening, I have been musing on the parallels between the music I am experiencing and the innovations of life sciences and IP protection in the world I inhabit most other days.

A few scattered thoughts.

Inspiration from prior work  This comparison probably only reaches so far before it loses applicability. In music, composers often build upon one another. This is not dissimilar to the inventions, where they are often built from a known starting point, a device, method or piece of research in the field, developed, improved or morphed into something novel.  In music, aside from flat out copying, this “prior art” doesn’t seem to present an issue, and can be seen as linking composers together through shared inspiration across distant eras. Not so sure it’s seen the same way with IP and certainly the patent office takes a different view when the inspiration seems too close.

Harmonies As I have mentioned in a number of previous blogs, intellectual property strategy is not a standalone plan. It should work in concert with other strategic elements like regulatory, business goals and R&D timelines. Putting these parts together and syncing them up can create a harmony, which like music, creates complementary results. On the other hand, when the elements are out of sync, the result can be dissonance, so much so that the overall direction and focus can be lost.

Structure Much of traditional classical music like baroque and romantic styles have a structure that is created by layering and ordering sections of music. So too IP can be shaped into a structure by layering its parts. Take a patent strategy. Structure brings a focus to selecting innovations that warrant patent applications and how to build the individual applications into a structure that will protect the innovation. For example, a patent strategy can be shaped to protect a drug through layers of claims covering the active molecule, its therapeutic uses, formulations, methods of manufacture and combinations with other active ingredients.

Theme and variations  Patent can be like a theme and variations in music, particularly when the inventor interacts with her patent attorney. The inventor starts with an idea or a set of ideas. The patent attorney often contributes to the variations of this theme. For example, the starting idea is a formulation currently used with a drug. The patent attorney suggests lists of substitutes for some of the components to broaden the scope. The inventor starts with an antibody that can be used therapeutically. The patent attorney encourages further thought on alternate antibody structures and related antibodies that may be useful. The variations complement and enhance the theme, but like the music, you can usually identify the key thematic elements in each of the variations.

Kindness of strangers  Like music, new innovations, particularly in the life sciences are not often self-funded and in fact, may not generate revenue for some time. They rely on interested audiences, angel funders and VCs for support. These funders, who may start out as strangers, can evolve into close relationships and lend guidance and focus to endeavors as they develop.

Time will tell  It seems to be challenging being a living composer. New music is often received with skepticism or sometimes not understood at all. The compositions that are most like the tried and true can garner some attention, but will they go the distance? Others, too distant from what the audience usually hears, can received little or no initial attention. Yet these pieces may stand the test of time and be the ones that stick around in the repertoire long term. Innovations can suffer similar fates, as can their innovators. Only the future will reveal what persists.

So, Play on music!    Play on innovation!