As a former IP law firm shareholder and senior corporate lawyer, I know all too well the expense required to start and maintain an IP law practice. Not only are IP lawyers of all levels of experience paid handsomely, but so are the highly skilled paralegals, docket clerks and administrative professionals traditionally required create the infrastructure needed to handle the myriad of details involved in an IP law practice. Of course, this expensive infrastructure must be sustaining, so while a lawyer serves today’s clients, her eye must also be on finding the next client because payroll and rent obligations don’t take a holiday when clients do. This "feed the beast" nature of the IP law practice model was a primary reason that I decided several years ago that I would not again work in the traditional practice of law. How could I? The standard legal service framework required me to build
As a "recovering patent lawyer," I now realize that I wasted a whole lot of my clients' money over the years because of the inherent inefficiencies that have been built into patent practice. In this regard, I wrote about the money wasted by old fashioned patent filing systems in this post a while back, a fact which I think dictates that clients insist that their lawyers adopt electronic filing systems. I have also written about the money wasted as a result of the inability of many clients to judge the value provided by their patent lawyers, which I believe is a result of information asymmetry. Another waste of money comes from the time needed to review patent filings during the drafting process. The highly technical nature of patent application and claim drafting requires detailed review of an application on multiple occasions prior to filing. Each review requires the time
After several years of writing about how business leaders need to wrest control of their IP matters from lawyers, today brought a revelation that illuminated why this seems to be such a hard point to get across. It should be a no brainer: it has been shown time and time again that when a company aligns its IP strategy with its business strategy, value creation opportunities abound. So, why is it so hard to get business people to sign onto something that is unquestionably in the best interests of their shareholders? It's simple--patent experts wholly lack credibility with business people on these issues. This lack of credibility is compounded by the fact that these experts are given a forum to trumpet these views through use of their firms' large marketing budgets, as well as by haphazard journalists who give them a forum to expound their self-interested views without counterpoint. To this
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"
This week, I am speaking at the Midwest IP Institute. I will be participating in a "fire side chat" with my good friend, Edna Vassilovski of Stoel, Rives LLP. Our session is entitled "How Patent Prosecutors and In-House Counsel Can Provide Work Product Better Aligned with Client's Business Needs." Specific topics we will discuss include:
- How clients’ views of IP and intangible assets are changing and ways both inside and outside counsel can stay relevant to clients today;
- What you can do to help clients obtain meaningful patents at reduced cost;
- How to really understand clients’ business goals and how to help make those happen; and
- How to help clients monetize their patents
Many experts insist that innovation cannot succeed without patents, and that the delays in the US Patent Office stifle innovation. This viewpoint is like to become more widely believed by the public as US Patent Office Director Stephen Kappos sees a way to improve the dismal operations of the Patent Office by equating patents as job creation tools, which necessarily requires patents to be asserted as critical for innovation to occur. I believe it is highly misleading, and even harmful in many cases, to say that patents are the end-all be-all to innovation. I also think that fixing the Patent Office--which will invariably mean that more people will see value in obtaining patents to support their business idea--should be viewed more as a job creation engine for patent attorneys and those who support them (including Patent Office employees), as opposed to creating jobs that can help improve the
Clear your calendars! Bilski was decided just a few weeks ago, and already the schedule is filled with at least 3 Lunch and Learn seminars in the Atlanta area about "what Bilski means to your practice." If you can't make these due to your Summer vacation schedule, don't worry: there are countless blog posts and "Urgent Practice Alerts" available, each of which reviews, abstracts and analyzes the case and its minutiae. Come on Folks: at the end of the day (and after 70 + obtuse pages of reading), Bilski was a very narrow ruling. We know what it means, and very few inventors will be affected by the holding. This means that very few attorneys should do much more than read the abstracted case, and then move on. So, why are my IP lawyer peers spending so much time
My friend Mary Adams of the Smarter Companies blog posted a brief article about Atul Gawande's recent book The Checklist Manifesto. I agree with Mary that checklists can be a powerful way to improve the work product quality of experts, and wanted to expand on her discussion as they relate to intellectual property, in particular patents. Also, I think that corporate managers who rely on the expertise of their company's patent lawyers can gain insights into the quality of their team's work product, even when they do not themselves seemingly hold the requisite skills to make such assessments just by starting a conversation about checklists. MY CHECKLIST STORY I read Dr. Gawande's original New Yorker article that formed the basis for the book at the same time I a good friend of mine--with whom I practiced law at a prestigious IP boutique--lost her corporate job in about December 2007.
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
Corporate legal managers and the business teams they support complain seemingly constantly about outside counsel expense, and intellectual property ("IP") is no exception. And, why wouldn't they complain when every dollar spent on legal representation is money that is effectively removed from the company's P&L statement? This sets up an ongoing tension between corporations and law firms to reduce legal costs even while lawyers' incomes have sky-rocketed in recent years. For most corporate buyers of legal services, however, the ability to obtain substantive cost reduction has been somewhat limited due to the lack of transparent information available about legal fees. It may be even more difficult for corporate legal services buyers to gain meaningful reductions in IP costs because of the highly specialized nature of this area of law practice which, arguably, makes IP more of a "Black Box" than most areas. Moreover, regardless