In today’s innovation and technology space, your intellectual property portfolio is your company’s main value-driver, comprising up to 80% of your enterprise’s overall assessed worth. To ensure long-term profitability, your overall business strategy must therefore align with a focused IP strategy that prioritizes protective instruments like patents and trademarks as a monetizable asset class. 

Designing and implementing an effective IP strategy is necessarily intricate work requiring specific legal expertise. While you likely have corporate legal services covered with experienced and competent lawyers, they probably lack the specific expertise necessary to fully protect and monetize your IP assets.

Obtaining the services of specialized IP counsel is a worthwhile investment in the future of your enterprise. They’d be able to insert themselves into every level of your innovation architecture, ensuring you’re getting the most value out of your asset portfolio. As you develop your company’s IP strategy, your IP counsel can play a central role in effectively laying a solid foundation for growth. 

Below are seven key areas where an outside IP legal team can help you create and maintain a dynamic IP strategy to bring your company to the leading edge of your marketspace.

Form an Innovation Committee

An innovation committee is the central hub through which your company’s IP strategy will be designed, revised, and executed. It is made up of representatives from across your enterprise, usually management and team leads from R&D and marketing, as well as representatives from executive leadership. In collaboration with these stakeholders, your IP counsel will often focus the actions of the committee with the goal of eliminating the problem of departmental siloing, and marshaling initiatives that promote innovation and IP awareness across your entire ecosystem. The formation of a motivated innovation committee is an important first step in the execution of the following measures. 

Implement Protocols Around IP Capture and Protection

Internal processes associated with your IP strategy cover a broad, cross-disciplinary arena, encompassing the entire end-to-end management of your intangible asset portfolio. On the front end of your innovation pipeline, your IP legal team will work with your R&D teams to establish protocols around the protection of nascent IP assets, including best practices around the drafting and intake of invention disclosures, and the proper incentivization of your developers. From there, IP counsel can help to implement procedures to ensure the further protection of your assets throughout their lifecycle.

Perform Contract and Agreement Audit 

A crucial step your IP counsel will take to protect your intellectual property is a thorough review of existing contracts and agreements to ensure clarity around the ownership rights of your IP. Initially, your innovation committee should direct a wholesale cataloging of all your intangible assets to establish a complete understanding of the assets your company owns. From there, your IP counsel can assess the IP-related clauses in the binding agreements that dictate the relationships with your employees, outside contractors, vendors, clients, licensees, and joint-development partners. Regular reviews of contracts, both comprehensive and ad hoc, should be part of your IP counsel’s ongoing remit.

Coordinate Professional Development Curricula

Promoting a vibrant culture of IP awareness across your company’s innovation ecosystem is among the most pivotal roles of your innovation committee. Your IP counsel plays a crucial role in the development and execution of sustained professional development curricula for inventors and innovation stakeholders in all relevant departments. For example, R&D teams must be kept abreast of how to spot patentable inventions and the proper processes around their documentation. On the other end of the pipeline, marketing and brand representatives will need to stay up to date on how best to project your company’s brand identity in the marketplace. Everyone within your enterprise will benefit from regular review of their roles in affirming your overarching IP strategy.

Execute Regular Competitive Landscape Analyses

The management of your own intellectual property is only one piece of a complete IP strategy. Maintaining an up-to-date and deep understanding of your direct and indirect competitors’ IP activities, with special focus on patent activity, is vital to solidifying and expanding your market position. A proficient IP legal team has expertise in specialized analysis tools and the methodologies around performing effective oversight of your competitive landscape, as well as the identification of possible “whitespace” areas that provide opportunities for future product development. Using their suite of tools, your IP counsel will be able to identify enforceable threats to your IP, opportunities to leverage and monetize your assets, and areas that may direct future innovation. 

Draft Freedom to Operate Opinions

The introduction of a new product requires more than solid development, manufacturing, and marketing. You will need to be sure of your product’s IP foundation to eliminate the risks of patent infringement. One of the most crucial roles your IP counsel plays is in the drafting of freedom-to-operate (FTO) opinions. FTO opinions aim to mitigate risks of possible litigation by providing guidance around the infringement of established patents. IP counsel may perform FTO analysis throughout the development cycle of your product, potentially guiding the product’s design, and even potentially identifying licensing opportunities that will allow the product to move forward into the market unimpeded. 

Litigate IP Infringement Cases

While enforcing the ownership of your IP assets in the courts might seem like the most obvious role of your IP counsel, it is actually an option of last resort. The overarching role of your IP counsel is to put in place the safeguards and protections that will help your company avoid expensive litigation. That said, the value of your portfolio is only as strong as your willingness to positively assert your rights over it. By diligently performing the tactics listed in this article, your vigilant IP counsel will be well-positioned to spot possible infringement cases, and well-armed to prosecute them. When your IP counsel is at the head of maintaining your robust IP strategy, they put your case in a much stronger position to secure a decision in your favor.

As you develop and fortify your company’s IP-aligned business strategy, retaining the services of specialized IP counsel is a valuable investment worth considering. They can help you realize your goals of maintaining a strong market position, driving your enterprise valuation, and solidifying your company as a leader in the innovation space. 

             Michael Dilworth

This article is for informational purposes, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and may be considered advertising under applicable state laws. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and are not necessarily shared by Dilworth IP, its other attorneys, agents, or staff, or its clients.