In his 15 years at IBM, Corville Allen has kept busy. How busy? When asked how many patents he’s been awarded, he’s able to respond, “Um. I don’t know? I’d have to look at my profile to tell you.” (We looked it up: He’s filed more than 160 patents, of which 73 have been granted.) When he runs into something that bugs him or finds something in an IBM product that should work better than it does, Corville gets to work.
But, he says, this instinct to fix things that bug him only captures about half the story of his patent successes. “One of the things that brought IBM to the point of having 25 years of innovation and leadership is the culture and the drive to innovate—among individuals and among groups in IBM. And it’s been part of the culture for a while. And it doesn’t happen by accident.”
Corville describes what he believes are the two strongest elements of IBM’s culture of innovation: First, he credits designation programs such as Master Inventor* with motivating IBMers to start their patent journeys. Corville recalls when he first learned of the Master Inventor designation. “I just knew I wanted to be one. That’s one of the things that drove me to find the problems in my product, improve the technology, improve outcomes for clients and improve the capabilities of our product that differentiate it in the market.”
So Corville started brainstorming, and before he knew it he had 73 patents? Well … not exactly. “As I became aware of the patent process, I realized that there is a lot to it. And that I needed help.”
Corville found the help he needed in the second element of IBM’s innovation culture: the IBM patent community. These days, Corville both finds and provides support throughout the process of developing ideas and filing patents—and where he often finds other inventors with whom to collaborate. “Depending on the subject matter and your skill set in the area in which you want to invent, you want to look for like-minded individuals that have some expertise in the area, and deep knowledge in the area. It saves you time, it allows you to broaden and strengthen the idea, and you get challenged on the idea at the same time.”
One of the places Corville finds people to work with is in internal IBM resources and local patent champion communities where he finds IBM patent experts willing to share advice and give guidance. Within the IBM network, there is a long list of resources to guide patent-seekers and nurture the innovation mindset.
So how about it? Go ahead and take your first step—set a goal, join the community of patent-seekers and holders, and find yourself a Corville Allen to help you earn yourself a patent.
*The IBM Master Inventor Award is a privilege and title afforded to IBM inventors who have exhibited sustained invention activity. To be selected as an IBM Master Inventor, one must (a) create valuable inventions resulting in patents and defensive publications that are in line with IBM’s criteria, and (b) support the IBM patent process such as by coaching other inventors, serving on invention development teams, and helping the IBM IP Law organization in other ways. The IBM Master Inventor program recognizes IBM’s leaders in the patent community.
Corville Allen is an IBM Master Inventor, a Senior Technical Staff Member for IBM Watson Health, and the Chair for Patent Champions in IBM Watson Health. He is based in IBM North Carolina.
The IBM Patent Leadership series marks IBM’s 25th consecutive year leading in patent grants. The series consists of innovation stories from remarkable IBMers who help make this company what it is and has been for over a century: a collection of inquisitive, restless, determined humans who drive the culture of innovation within and beyond our walls.
Find out more about the foundation of IBM’s Patent Leadership.