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
I spent a few days last week at the Innovation Cubed Conference in Orlando. While there, I heard two instances of use of a term that I absolutely hate, at least when it is used by innovation professionals to define in some manner the innovation processes of their respective organizations. This word is:
PATENT WHITESPACE ANALYSISNot only do I hate this phrase, I think that companies that utilize patent (or IP) whitespace analysis to define their product and technology development pathways are quite possibly setting themselves up for failure. And, it's bad enough that a single innovation project might fail as a result of the faulty data inputs that can occur from relying on whitespace assessments, but I think that most corporate processes incorporating patent whitespace analysis are based upon faulty methodology, thus setting the organization up for sustainable failure. For the uninitiated, when applied to the patent world,
The take home message: If your company sells a product that bears a patent number, you need to read this post in its entirety. Much has been written in recent months about false marking lawsuits, most of these in the form of "urgent legal alerts" by law firms that calmly deconstruct the appellate court rulings (this one is illustrative). At the end of the day, these articles likely do not look very "urgent" to business people like yourself because most business people do not engage themselves with patent law generally, let alone something as arcane as false marking. So, even though the subject excites us a patent experts, we really cannot expect you to get excited about something that does not seem to affect your ability to conduct business today. However, if your business is a likely target of a false marking lawsuit it will cost you big bucks almost immediately.
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
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
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
This week, President Obama will announce a $100 billion proposal to stimulate the economy, where much of the focus is to be placed in the area of R & D tax credits. In addition to making the R & D tax credit permanent, Obama will seek increasing one of the credits available from 14 to 17 percent. This announcement brought to mind a blog post that
This week, Facebook's trademark action against a small online teaching company has been all over the news. In summary, Facebook contends that TeachBook infringes its trademark rights in the "Facebook" name because, presumably, the "book" part of the name is associated in the minds of the relevant consumer public with the now well-known Facebook brand. Today, it was reported that Facebook is now trying to own the rights to the "face" part of its name. Most wouldn't be surprised that the word "book" is used as a part of the name of a multitude of products and services, which would make it appear that Facebook is using its resources to beat up on smaller companies. The natural response from the layperson is "why is Facebook being such a trademark bully?" But to someone with experience in IP strategy, the business reasons behind Facebook's actions are clear. From a legal perspective,
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