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IP Lawyers: Enough about Bilski Already! Instead, Start Spending Time on Things that Create Value for Your Clients

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

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Innovation is Sprouting in US Patent Office: A Plea for Flexibility from Patent Practitioners and Interested Parties to Allow the Necessary Changes

Anyone who has practiced IP law for a few years can attest to the transformations happening in the US Patent Office over the last year.  In my opinion, Director Kappos is more than a breathe of fresh air over his predecessors, he actually knows what he is doing!  Also, regardless of what one may think of President Obama's other policies and actions, one cannot question that his leadership is resulting in real attempts at innovation in the arguably previously moribund Patent Office. As a experienced patent practitioner, the last several years have been very demoralizing.  I actually made the decision to stop working as a patent prosecutor because, quite simply, I became weary trying to educate junior examiners about the deeply nuanced intricacies of patent law.  Worse was trying to explain to clients why their patent application covering an important commercial innovation could not get approved in the Kafkaesque environment of

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Have a Pending US Patent Application? There’s Never Been a Better Time to Make a Deal with the Patent Office

The US Patent Office is in a deal-making mood.  Really.  Ever since Director Kappos told his examiners last Fall that "patent quality does not equal rejection," I have heard many stories about how patent applications that appeared to be stuck in the limbo 0f serial rejections are now being allowed.  Those of us who talk about such things online are in agreement that we may be operating in an unprecedented favorable environment of patent allowances.   The data bear out this anecdotal evidence:  patent issuances are up 35%  this year over last year. My sense of what is happening, which has been confirmed by other experienced patent folks to whom I have spoken, the perspective of the Patent Office has changed.  The consensus is the U.S. patenting process is much less adversarial today.  In recent years, examiners were effectively told by the Patent Office administration that "there needs to

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Much Ado About Patent Marking: Why It is So Hard for Corporations to Get It Right and Why False Marking Lawsuits Might be a Good Thing Overall

Misalignment between patent and business functions is the underlying cause of false patent markingIt is fairly rare for patents to make hit the radar screen of mainstream news outlets but, recently, there has been much space allotted to the issue of patent mis-marking and lawsuits being brought by third parties for "violation" of the law requiring that products cannot be marked with an incorrect patent number.  Indeed, the usually substance-free local paper in my mother's Southwest Florida community reported about the flood of patent mis-marking lawsuits.  And, it is no wonder that the undoubtedly arcane issue of patent marking has reached the status of "news" in a small-town paper given the huge number of cases currently pending in the federal courts.  It seems as if patent marking litigation may be the new business model for trial lawyers who are

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Checklists Could be the Key for Managers to Understand Whether Their Company’s Patents are Worth the Paper They’re Written On

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. 

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Success in Innovation Requires IP Counseling on the Front End: Here’s How to Make it Happen

The 2009 Open Innovation Summit was held in Orlando two weeks ago.  The event was attended by corporate practitioners of Open Innovation, including people from P&G, GSK Consumer, Cisco, Whirlpool, J&J, HP (here are Phil McKinney's slides), Clorox, and many others.  Leading consultants in Open Innovation also attended, including Stefan Lindegaard of Leadership+ Innovation, Braden Kelley of Blogging Innovation and Robert Brands of Innovation Coach.  A number of vendors of services were there, too.  I thought this was a great knowledge share event, and a must do for folks wanting to learn more about Open Innovation.  Another Summit is planned for August 201o in Chicago. At the Summit, we spent much of the 3 days hearing how the attending companies, many of which include those in the Fortune 100, view Open Innovation as a critical aspect of sustainable growth and profits.  We also heard about

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Innovative Methods for Corporate Legal Managers to Reduce IP Counsel Costs

The Slideshare presentation that follows is an excerpt from a class that I am teaching to in-house legal managers about innovations in IP management. The topic of the presentation is innovative methods to reduce IP legal procurement and management costs. The goal of my presentation is not to get corporate IP types not to think outside the box but, rather, to think outside the truck the box came in. As such, many people may think these ideas are "way out," but if you start with small ideas, you end up with small improvements.

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Confessions of a Reluctant Convert to Electronic Patent File Management Systems & Why I Am Now a True Believer

For many years, vendors of office automation systems expended considerable effort trying to convince corporate and law firm patent attorneys to adopt paperless file management systems by touting the time and money savings associated with electronic files over the traditional patent file system. However, relatively few patent attorneys have done so, instead, remaining loyal to the traditional three-sided manila patent file folder. Until recently I was one of those patent attorneys. Now that I have discovered the vast efficiencies and improvements possible with these electronic systems, the question is why I remained true to this clearly outdated system of maintaining client patent prosecution records. Given the remarkable efficiency and knowledge management improvements possible with electronic patent file management systems, there can be no viable excuse for either corporate or law firm patent attorneys not to adopt such systems.In retrospect, I think I found that the heft and history represented by the

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Chief IP Counsel: Stop Trying to Change How Your Lawyers Bill You and Focus on the Model They Use to Provide Your Legal Services

As legal service fees continue to rise five percent or more year after year, corporate IP managers, such as Chief IP Counsel and the like, continually face pressures from their management teams to reduce outside counsel legal expenses. The current economic downturn has also resulted in corporate legal budgets being slashed, thus increasing the pressure on corporate IP managers to reduce outside counsel costs, even while IP asset value is becoming more important to C-level management. As a result, the need for corporate IP managers to achieve outside counsel fee relief while at the same time maintaining IP legal service quality is more acute than ever today. Today, there are a number of commonly accepted methods to achieve outside IP counsel fee relief including fixed (or "capped") fee arrangements and a percentage reduction per total hours billed, as well as electronic billing systems set up to automatically audit law firm bills.

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Without Disruptive Innovation, Many IP Law Firms are Destined to Meet the Same Fate as Buggy Whip Manufacturers

A possible upside to the recent economic downturn is that many previously accepted business models are being revealed as in need of substantial reinvention or even total elimination. The billable hour/leverage law firm model for legal services is one of these increasingly maligned business models, and is now appearing to be in danger of ending up in the dustbin of history. Specifically, even those who benefit handsomely from the billable hour, such as the Cravath firm's many $ 800 per hour lawyers, now realize the fundamental irrationality of charging a client for time spent instead of value provided. This alone should signal that change is in the air. Notwithstanding the growing conversation about the need for alternative legal service billing methods, I fear that the majority of IP law firms will either try to ignore the desire for change or will respond by offering