Monthly Archives: October 2010

We’re Measuring the Wrong Things: Inventiveness and Patents Do Not Equal Innovation

Thinking that invention means innovation means that we're giving the wrong advice.

Few things infuriate me more than supposed experts who make statements along the lines of “patents are critical to innovation.”  I have avoided stating my views widely in this forum because I didn’t want to get into a contest of one upmanship with my patent lawyer peers.  However, in the last couple of weeks, several pieces of information have hit my radar screen that make this seem like the right time to go public with my views.

Let my position be very clear:  we create a false dichotomy when saying “innovation is not possible without patents.”  The issue is much more complex and nuanced than this:  in a particular instance, patents may be critical to innovation, but they might also be only slightly important or–likely in the majority of situations–they might be wholly irrelevant to innovation.  (I talk more about this in this recent interview in Innovation Management Magazine.) Unfortunately, where you stand also depends on where you sit, and sitting behind a desk writing or examining patents may color your belief that patents are the cure for America’s innovation ills.  (The cynic would likely note that relying on a patent practitioner or the Commissioner of the US Patent Office for an assessment of whether we need more patents is akin to “putting the fox in charge of guarding the hen house, but I digress. . . .”)

Building equivalency between the number of patents issued is now generally accepted by business analysts to be an improper measure of innovation quality or likely success at the business level–although this is a fairly recent realization that was pushed by outside forces, not by those who generally were incentivized on the basis of patent quanitity, e.g., scientists, engineers and corporate and law firm patent practitioners.  In other words, external forces increasingly dictate that corporate success, in the form of market value etc., be measured by output in the form of profits and the like, not by inputs in the form of number of patents filed and/or issued.   A similar transformation has not made it into the public discourse about what our patent system means and how it can function more effectively, however. Continue reading

GSU Corporate IP Roundtable on November 4 and 5: A Great IP Event at a Great Discount

The GSU Corporate IP Institute: Not another CLE discussing case law.

Many of you who read my blog also follow my Tweet Streams when I am at conferences.  Last Fall, I blogged from the Georgia State University Corporate IP Institute.  Several people admonished me for not letting them know beforehand that the event was occurring, so this year I am giving everyone advance notice, as well as providing folks with the ability to attend using my discount code.

The 2010 GSU Corporate IP Institute will be on November 4-5 at Georgia State University.  Unlike most IP-related CLE’s, this event generally is light on the case law citations, and heavy on practical tips for those who view IP as a primary form of business value today.  (Editorial note:  if you are a case law geek, then this is not the event for you–but if you are a caselaw geek, why the heck are you reading this blog anyway?!)

The full details are in this brochure, but one super highlight is that on the 4th, Ray Niro will go up against Dan McCurdy to discuss IP monetization–those in the know will recognize that this is like having matter and anti-matter in the same room!   This will be my 4th year attending this event, and I have never been disappointed with the either the content or the caliber of practitioners who show up:  the number of corporate IP types definitely outweighs law firm folks, so if you would like to attend an event and meet new people, this is the place for you.  This is certainly the premier IP networking event in the Southeast, or even the country, and is receiving broad praise from those who understand the value of elevating IP business value.  (See kudos here and here.)

As the Chair of the GSU Corporate IP Roundtable this year (a sister organization), I have been given the discount code that will allow you to attend for 1 day at $395 or for both days for $595.  There is more detail in the brochure, but it is my understanding that there are 12 Georgia CLE credits available, as well as the elusive ethics and professionalism credits.  CLE is available in other states, also.

If you are interested in attending, please use the following codes.

JHBlog-Early Bird Price – $395 one day or JHBlog-Early Bird Price – $595 both days.  Registration is at this link.

Also, feel free to pass this on to colleagues of your who you think might wish to attend.

If you have any specific questions, please let me know, and I will forward your inquiry onto the right person.

Look forward to seeing you on November 4 and 5!

The Disconnect Between IP Business Value and IP Legal Services and How Business Leaders Can Do a Better Job Choosing Their IP Counsel

Fancy law firm offices rarely create business value for clients.

Last week, I did what I these days rarely ever do:  live in the world of corporate and law firm IP lawyers.   I traveled to Minneapolis to speak at the Midwest IP Institute and, while there, I was treated to a baseball game in a luxury box, a high end hotel room with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a fabulous steak dinner and various other fringe benefits that I have not seen recently.  It was clear to me that even in these trying economic times when law firms have folded and merged and lawyers have been laid off in droves from all sorts of law firms, many lawyers are still living the high life.  I must say, I was somewhat surprised, because I thought business people were getting smarter about how they spent their money these days and, as a result, would not be impressed with fancy law offices and “bling” provided by their lawyers.  And, I also thought that lawyers who saw their colleagues lose their jobs and long-standing law firms collapse would express more humility and caution in their spending habits, but apparently their “near death experiences” had little effect on the way law firms operate.  But, the more things change, the more things stay the same in the law firm business, apparently, just with fewer law firms and lawyers to fill them.

A confession is first in order—I was one of these lawyers who received and valued the “bling” accompanying the world of a successful lawyer.  I had an obscenely high salary (as least it seems this way now), a fabulous downtown office with a free parking spot, a seemingly bottomless expense account and so on and so on.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that none of these accoutrements did anything to  create value for my clients.  To the contrary, these features only add to the overhead of legal services, and the price I charged.  A company hiring one of these law firms pays for these lawyer fringe benefits in the form of higher hourly rates and increased “administrative fees.”  These fringe benefits did not do anything to make my work product better and, in reality, likely made it harder to do the right thing for my clients because I needed to fill up my and my associates’ hours to continue “feeding the beast”–that is, pay for the high overhead accompanying my high end legal practice. Continue reading