With corporate legal budgets being cut more than 10% in 2009 it might seem like challenging times to manage a corporate IP department. To add to the difficulties, such reductions are occurring even while many corporations are increasing the focus placed on creation of value using strategic IP management. Corporate IP managers must therefore obtain more valuable IP with smaller budgets.
Fortunately for corporate IP managers, the current economic climate has forced many prestigious law firms to, perhaps for the first time, develop innovative billing and practice models. This has not only resulted in the effective billable rates of these law firms effectively dropping more than 10%, but many law firms have or are developing more efficient ways to deliver legal services to their clients. Smart law firms will pass these cost savings on to their clients to build loyalty.
A strong majority of people seeking patent protection to protect their products or technology leave the details the drafting process to their patent attorneys. That is, given the specialized (and, frankly, arcane) nature of the patenting process, even highly accomplished business professionals believe that a patent specialist (i.e., attorney or agent) is better equipped to understand how to best describe their invention to the US Patent Office (“USPTO”). This can be an ineffective way to handle the front end of the patenting process because it can result in the process being more contentious. Such contentiousness can result in narrower claims than desired and can make the patent take longer to issue and make the process considerably more expensive.
In determining whether a client’s invention meets the legal requirements for patentability, a patent specialist thinks about how to legally distinguish the invention from those that have come before. Specifically, the patent specialist must demonstrate to the USPTO—as represented In the person of a patent examiner—how the invention is new and not obvious in view of what others have done previously. The patent specialist must also determine how to describe the invention in a way that satisfies the precise technical and legal requirements. While working in this “legal silo,” a patent specialist quite possibly does not have any knowledge about the commercial benefits the invention provides because the client’s business team typically is not involved in the patent drafting process. This means that when drafting the application, the patent attorney presents the invention in relation to the “check boxes” that the invention must satisfy in order to meet the legal requirements of patentability.
Moreover, even if such business information is available to the patent specialist, they rarely possess specific expertise in marketing or business. Without such training, a client cannot reasonably expect their patent specialist to present the invention in a way that effectively convinces the patent examiner that the invention “the best thing since sliced bread.” Most patent attorneys thus will wholly ignore what I call the “Wow Factor” associated with an invention.
This “Wow Factor” sounds quite a bit like marketing, doesn’t it? Continue reading
Do you treat your patents as a fence or a tollbooth? If you wish for your start-up technology company to obtain investment from or acquisition by a bigger player, you had better understand the difference.
Most start-up technology company entrepreneurs and CEO’s understand that patents can be key to establishing the value of a new business idea. Typically, entrepreneurs and CEO’s such as yourself will engage patent attorneys to build an IP portfolio that protects the start-up’s technology and products to the fullest extent possible. The motivation for this effort and expense is, of course, to to protect your start-up’s idea from use by others. As management of a start-up you may be seeking to build an ongoing business around the patented technology, but often the goal of building a solid patent portfolio is to make your business an attractive target for investment or acquisition by a larger company.
I believe that such an inwardly focused patenting strategy is a misguided approach for companies that wish to obtain investment from or be acquired by larger companies. Why do I think this? Let me use a simple analogy. Continue reading