We handle the intellectual property (IP) portfolios for a diverse range of clients, many of whom are large multinationals. Their IP portfolios typically include all forms of registrable rights – patents, trademarks and designs. We also often find that certain clients have many IP service providers, each of which handle one or more of those registrable rights. Such a fractured vendor landscape can arise due to a variety of factors, such as historical reasons. For example, different IP Managers within the organisation have had different preferences for IP services providers and have spread the work around over time, or there may have even been an internal policy in this regard. Sometimes, a parent company may acquire smaller entities and will transfer any IP into the parent’s name, but will retain management of the IP with the existing service provider. This may be for perceived convenience, or simply due to a perceived cost for transfer of the portfolio. Whatever the reason, there are disadvantages to having the IP handled by plurality of service providers.
By reviewing the IP portfolios of the most successful organisations it is clear that industry best practice is to have the IP handled by a very limited number of service providers, and preferably consolidated to a single provider.
Industry best practice
There are many advantages of having your IP handled under one roof by a single dedicated IP team. For example, to enable the attorneys handling the IP to better understand:
- the client’s commercial objectives,
- the client’s existing technology, the technology currently under development, and what technology may be required in the future,
- the client’s main competitors and their technologies, and
- to gain a better understanding of the industry in general, including the common technical knowledge.
An understanding of the commercial objectives is important, as these objectives should frame the IP being developed now and into the future, and will assist the attorney to more comprehensively protect and enforce the IP. Consolidation of IP with a single service provider enables the attorneys to become more embedded in the organisation and fosters a more collaborative working relationship with the key people in the organisation (researchers, inventors, business development managers, etc). It can also be important to understand the client’s key competitor(s) and its technologies for freedom to operate issues and to assist the organisation in its decisions to attack its competitors’ IP. All these factors lead to:
- greater proactive and strategic management of the client’s IP (rather than a reactive approach to IP issues as they arise);
- increased efficiencies in dealing with IP matters;
- a service provider enabled to add real value to the organisation, and
- cost benefits.
Furthermore, there are synergies which come about from this approach. As attorneys/lawyers become more embedded in an organisation they are better able to brainstorm technical solutions with R&D personnel and to assist them to understand the commerciality of the solutions they develop to real-world problems. Additionally, the improved collaboration which is possible between attorneys and R&D staff can lead to more robust patent specifications being drafted, thereby improving the strength of the IP, reducing the ability of infringers to work around the IP, and increasing the prospects of surviving a validity attack. It also leads to the attorneys having a better understanding of the key prior art in the field, and the common ‘terms of art’. The organisation can also benefit in other ways. For example, many in-house IP teams are relatively small and there can sometimes be a high turnover of attorneys. Utilising a single service provider supports portfolio knowledge and corporate memory.
Conclusions and summary
There are many advantages to an organisation having its IP handled by a single service provider, and is a ‘best practice’ approach to strategic IP portfolio management.
Spruson & Ferguson is well placed to assist with management and consolidation of your IP portfolio to achieve your commercial objectives.
The content of this article is general in nature and must not be relied on in lieu of advice from a qualified professional in respect of your particular circumstances.