Intellectual Property

The assignment should revolve around patent-related problematic. The specific problematic addressed (and problem-fit solution developed) will be up to the writer.

Summary of Key points for this assignment

Purpose: There are many very difficult problems in the world. We sometimes call these wicked problems (eg climate change) where the solutions have many strands – such as the need for social, economic and regulatory change. There are also many problems that seem very simple but have complex solutions. For example if we take the problem of providing working toilets for the one billion people who don’t have access to toilets- there is apparently a simple solution: we know how to build toilets, we know how to provide clean water. The specific nature of the problem though is different in each setting – localised, messy, economic, behavioural. Entrepreneurs need to grapple with this complexity and adapt solutions. Problem-Solution fit is one way.

The entrepreneurial craft here is judging and interrogating whether a chosen solution “fits’ the specific stated problem, in a particular setting. The concept of “fit” is a social construction as much as an economic one. What seems logical often does not work in practice, in the environment where it is supposed to work. Your job is to explore, identify, evaluate…A useful question is “What is the nature of the addressable problem we are looking to solve”.

This assignment thrives on cognitive diversity. Listen to your group members’ perceptions – you may not agree, but their views may represent an important barrier to implementation of a solution.

The “problems” – Choose from one of these topics: • Patents

Outline of the process towards excellent groupwork
1) Find a problem/issue/challenge within the chosen topic: You can work with either the whole problem, or a selected part. The issue can be a problem as experienced by society, by a company, by a national government, by a regulator or a user.
2) Once you have an idea of the problem (nb RESEARCH the problem) work creatively as a group to examine dimensions of the solution. This may be more of a social problem with a behavioural solution or a technology issue where the solution is financial or organisational.
3) Source potential solution (s) (nb RESEARCH the solutions). It is easier to find existing solutions, or use existing solutions creatively, but in some cases you could originate your own.
4) Evaluate challenges, constraints, opportunities, around the solution you have chosen, as far as is possible. You can conclude with a ‘best’ solution, or evaluate key issues to highlight, or bring together a set of solutions. Aim for a manageable area where you can show excellence.
5) This assignment is unlikely to lead to a conclusion, or a definite position. It is an exploration of problem-solution fit.

More on these topic areas: This groupwork offers choice within these problem areas. You can take a well-known dimension of the problem, or a smaller addressable part of the problem. You can take the global perspective, or narrow down to one country to examine the specific context around problem-solution fit. For the companies Philips and Twitter, you are looking either at a problem experienced by Philips, or a problem that the company is seen to be causing.

Examples Here are a couple of worked example (not on one of the topics above). They are both in the healthcare sector as illustration. In healthcare, most problems and solutions have a global dimension, whether that is around the supply chain, access, politics or patents.

Sample Topic 1: Wearables for health management. (An example of a wearable is a FitBit, or some of the health functionality on an Apple Watch)
Topic exploration: Wearables have the potential to improve self-management of health. Fitbits encourage physical activity, and satisfy an increasing need for monitoring performance. This is called by some the ‘quantified self’. Wearables exist that monitor blood pressure and other clinical markers. These allow patients to take control, and sometimes for clinicians to monitor remotely and more often than is currently economical.

Problems within this topic might include: Doctors can mistrust the sometimes-inaccurate monitoring; wearables lack clinical (medicallyaccepted) evidence of impact; patients can become anxious; trials in hospitals have difficulty in scaling; data protection; there are boundary issues between for example national healthcare systems like the NHS and for-profit start-ups sharing data and development. Clinicians feel threatened by consumer-led healthcare… etc etc

Solutions: might follow the model of a successful clinical wearable integration with current healthcare – where has this integration process worked well?; are there interesting global examples we can draw on to explore what success looks like? Trialling within eg a national healthcare’s innovation system – how does this work?; reputational leadership – is this important, how can medically-literate leaders be brought in to develop entrepreneurial solutions that ‘fit’ the structures of healthcare; can we solve problems of access, eg with older populations, using better user-interfaces? These are a few examples of how the topic breaks down.


Sample Topic 2: Drug development in global pharmaceutical companies (‘big pharma’)
Topic exploration: Big pharma’s pipeline of new drugs in development is in trouble. It is becoming increasingly expensive for them to develop new drugs, which is causing price spikes and for some disease areas to be neglected. Pharma companies are solving this by increasingly using publically-funded research, like sponsoring universities’ research efforts, to create value. Effectively this means outsourcing their R&D more to Universities.

Problems within this topic: for example…. this value created ultimately is given primarily to shareholders rather than the research originators like Universities; only potential ‘blockbuster’ disease areas are researched; copycat drugs offer little additional benefit; breakthroughs such as Solvadi (Hepatitis C drug) are priced extremely high to re-coup the development costs and failure in other parts of the pipeline.

Entrepreneurial solutions: might look at the University end to retain more value from pharma developments through contracts; funding for orphan drug developers; crowd-sourcing bioscience investment; profit-sharing models; regulation, patent behaviours, community or shareholder focused awareness.. and more. Even though this is a difficult problem, you can break down both the problem space and the solution end to achieve an understanding of “fit”


Guidance on how the process works
• A working process might read as: Identify topic>Explore challenges therein>Focus down on a specific area>Where are solutions?
• You can explore multiple solutions to a particular issue, or just one potential solution area.
• Solutions can be technology-based or more business/social in nature
• The balance between problem and solution may be different. For example some issues are very complex and most of the essay will be devoted to finding a part of a complex challenge that is addressable, or will make a difference.
• You can write up your investigations as well as conclusions. In some areas, it will take effort to find out suitable data.
• For research advice on how to explore the databases, look at the Library slides!
• You will find yourself asking the Question “What part of this can be solved?” More on Methods & Timing As before, at every stage of the assignment, you will need to use library and other online resources to explore, to investigate, and to analyse critically the results of that exploration.
• Our advice is to quite quickly decide on a Problem space from the list of choices. Or if your group can’t decide, do the initial research phase by researching two ideas at the same time, then meet online to discuss what will work best for the group.
• The next phase will likely involve both exploring the problem, breaking it down into different strands, and also looking at solutions. Our advice is to keep the work at a brainstorming level, at this stage, to keep many options on the table.
• Take an iterative approach towards problem-solution fit; try out ideas, fail them fast, reformulate ideas. Cognitive diversity is good; try to negotiate without too much ego involvement.
• Try to finalise this iterative phase by crafting a good Research Question. This then is the Question that you investigate to find answers. You don’t have to craft a research question but it can make it easier. This is not a dissertation but an investigation. 8 •
The benefit of having a central question is that is it then easier to split up the research work into the different dimensions to investigate. One person might search for evidence; another might look at the cultural dimensions; another the regulatory aspect; another the competitor landscape. Each group member could investigate a different solution.

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