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The future of IP management

The future of IP management


New technology will allow law firms to offer their clients new opportunities and help drive their business strategies, writes Simon Webster

Is there an opportunity for law firms to elevate their roles in intellectual property management? Can they offer clients new opportunities through the application of big data? Two questions that IP specialists must ask themselves in this new age of IP awareness.

Patent filings are at an all-time high and the IP landscape is getting more complex to navigate. Historically, IP management was a manual process with paralegals spending hours on administrative tasks. As automated tools have been introduced to streamline filing and renewals processes, firms will experience some relief from administrative tasks – but their IP strategies will be under the spotlight.

In a digital age the acquisition, protection, and monetisation of IP lies at the core of business value. IP portfolios make up some 70 per cent of a company’s value. Law firms are starting to identify how much revenue an IP portfolio generates for a client and demonstrate the return on investment. This ensures a valuable IP never slips through the net, while IP that is due for renewal but has no value can be abandoned. Insight like this can transform a firm’s IP management from a reactive role to a more proactive and strategic role.A vision of the future

There are four key phases of IP management – creation, protection, management, and optimisation – and new technology, automation, data availability, and collaboration all combine to shape new strategy.

Firms need to weather changes in patent law and case law, shielding clients from any form of disruption or confusion. Though IP attorneys prepare and prosecute patents, their main role is to mitigate client risk and provide advice worth paying for. The more the advice offers competitive advantage, the more a client will pay.

Technology tools

Central to the changing future of IP management is new technology. Firms across the world are looking to harness the power of information and analytics to make themselves more efficient, knowledgeable, and profitable. Paralegals, patent attorneys, and partners who embrace new software will manage IP portfolios better. Such solutions can improve data quality and integrity, help forecast and budget more accurately, and optimise internal processes.

Automated services are providing firms with greater levels of transparency and simplicity in capturing, nurturing, and protecting valuable ideas. In US Patent and Trademark Office data, for example, there are more than 800 different spellings of ‘International Business Machines’ in patent grants, primarily caused by human error. With the availability of machine learning, human error can be eradicated in moments. Even filing services are becoming automated, with information readily available from patent offices through plug-in APIs.

Many firms are embracing advanced prosecution metrics to provide insight into attorney performance and efficiency. With access to information, firms can interrogate successful prosecutions to seek patterns and even suggest filings for abandonment based on a low probability of success or commercial impact. This advice can support a more intelligent use of budgets, focusing clients on where success is most likely to be achieved, and even recommend attorneys with the most effective success rate.

Big data, big opportunities

Access to advanced and more transparent data sets has changed the role of firms in IP management, but it has also given them the opportunity to deliver more than paperwork. Firms can influence major boardroom decisions and drive business strategy.

Patent data is now publicly available. A firm can quickly gain access to more than 100 million patents in more than 150 countries. Examining data on this scale would have been impossible even a few years ago, but with the cheap and easy availability of cloud computing and storage tools, firms can now quickly analyse this information and generate a competitive advantage from it.

Should a client exploit this IP in this country? What is the overall market size? Where are the best opportunities? How does a client’s IP portfolio measure up against its nearest competitor? Which direction could the company go in to exploit new opportunities or protected ideas?

The future of IP creation will be about leaner, faster, and more informed innovation. Firms have the opportunity to provide strategic counsel to their clients on the future path of innovation without jeopardising the quality of their IP management. As every business focuses on value for money, IP owners will want more from their legal advisers and for their IP to more closely align with their own business strategy.

Deploying a degree of automation ensures IP portfolios are reliably protected and adds value to clients without needing significant human intervention. This gives firms the opportunity to deploy new tools – such as big data analysis, machine learning, and cloud computing – to fundamentally change their relationship with IP owners. Firms have always been important partners to business; they now have the opportunity to help drive business strategy with intelligent insight and a deeper understanding of what patents can tell their clients.

Simon Webster is the chief executive officer at CPA Global