Patenting Identity into the Future
In the last couple of years, SailPoint has found a renewed sense of ownership when dealing with our inventions. We sat down with our VP, Lead Corporate Architect Matt Domsch to get a look behind the curtain on what is driving these changes and what it means for identity.
How does the patent program fit into our culture?
Since our founding, innovation has been one of our core values – not for innovation’s own sake but recognizing that we can positively impact our customers’ success through our creativity. We want to be known as innovators. A patent is one recognition of that. Our goal for the patent program as a whole is two-fold. First, to protect our inventions. It is important to stake a claim to the brilliant ideas our team produces. The second, is to showcase the innovation. We want to put our ideas out there because it will attract customers, partners, and future employees to be part of our award-winning culture.
Can you walk us through how you harness ideas for new innovations?
Innovations can happen at any point in the development process, by any participant. Most often, someone close to a customer problem, such as a product manager, sales engineer, professional services engineer, or a support engineer, will be able to articulate the problem and will take first pass at trying to solve it, in an obvious way (e.g. the way our products are intended to be used). However, when this fails, and we understand that our products cannot solve the problem today, this opens the door for innovative ideas and novel solutions.
Often times in a rush to get a solution to our customers, everyone jumps to implementation and only later thinks about patenting the invention. To capture these innovations after the fact, we hold patent harvesting sessions, typically with the product managers, lead engineers, and a patent attorney, around the time of a new product version launch. In this session, we review all the interesting work that has gone into the new version, looking for innovations that would make good patents. With the attorney present, we get immediate feedback on the viability of an idea. From there the process continues with a disclosure write up, attorney interview, application draft, and submission.
What is the general approach you take with inspiring ideas on your team?
We always start with interesting problems, and there’s never a lack of interesting problems to solve. We spend a lot of time in this area, because being able to clearly articulate a problem is the first step to finding an innovative solution. Most problems have straightforward and obvious solutions, which aren’t patentable. It’s when we get a thorny problem that requires cleverness, insight, and inspiration to overcome, then we know we’ve got an opportunity for a patentable solution.
Now armed with a problem description, it is usually handed over to a product manager, engineer, or team to research and brainstorm solutions. It’s from this brainstorming session that ideas are generated, refined, debated, until a clear best way forward appears. One person, or the team together have “Ah Ha!” moments, which is how I describe the point of invention, when the solution can be described in detail and completeness, even if it hasn’t been implemented yet. Now is the perfect time to get the idea onto paper and submitted for a patent.
One cannot overlook the “research” part of the step above. It’s rare that one finds a problem that’s interesting, that no one has ever tried solving before. Often times, you’ll find solutions that work, yet there’s opportunity to improve upon them. Or they don’t quite fit your exact use case and need to be refined and combined with other approaches to solve your exact problem, in the most efficient manner. That’s all fair game for innovation.
What are the latest approved patents from SailPoint? Can you talk about some of the latest patented innovations from SailPoint and reaction from customers so far?
A few patents have been approved this year which are incorporated into the SailPoint Predictive Identity platform we launched in 2019. These patents are fundamental to our story, underlying our recommendation engine and role mining capabilities. This has been extremely well received, since we announced it at Navigate Austin 2019, with many of our existing customers expressing interest.
In addition, we were granted patents to better protect a customer’s sensitive service account credentials and for electing data owners. We have patents pending covering inventions in our cross-platform capabilities. We are constantly innovating to improve our customer’s ability to govern their data and systems efficiently, accurately, and at scale.