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The team at Dilworth IP has been engaged in conversations with colleagues across the intellectual property community over the last few weeks, including in-house counsel, corporate leaders and outside counsel across the United States and worldwide. As part of our commitment to the IP community, we occasionally publish updates on the state of the industry and our take on where the world of IP innovation is heading. We hope you find these insights from across the world of IP helpful during these exceedingly complex times.

The IP Community Responds to COVID:
Key Themes from Dilworth IP’s Clients, Colleagues and Fellow Counsel


Taking Care of the Team Comes First

Uniformly, IP leaders are aggressively focusing on the health, wellbeing and safety of their teams. Recognizing that employees aren’t just working from home —- many are worried about their loved ones, taking care of children who are stranded from school and trying to ensure the safety of aging parents or other family members – IP leaders are working hard to protect and support their teams by encouraging not only safety but also mental health balance, personal and professional breaks and other steps to ensure continuity and care across the organization.


IP is Stepping Up to the Plate as an Executive Leader

Many IP leaders are expressing the importance of staying engaged and speaking up in virtual team huddles with executive leaders and colleagues. Executives are suddenly finding themselves in daily or weekly huddles with twenty to fifty of their fellow leaders across every function of the enterprise. This forces creative thinking on what to share, how to prioritize resources, and what to offer from their teams to the rest of the organization. In short, how can IP teams and the larger legal departments or functions they are part of, support the rapidly changing needs of the company, domestically and worldwide?


Doubling Down on Innovation to Drive the Pivot Playbook

IP leaders are also recognizing that this is the time to push forward aggressively with innovation as a strategic driver. Regulations worldwide are being relaxed and approval processes are being slashed dramatically in the name of finding solutions to pressing needs. Whether in healthcare, supply chain management, transportation, cleaning and hygiene, or a thousand other fields — new solutions are needed from every area of the innovation ecosystem. Companies that leverage this time accordingly can discover and pursue huge windows of opportunity to get new innovations developed, tested and launched into a market desperate for ideas. Many IP leaders are pressing the case with their executive colleagues that now is the time to make an impact and press the company forward as it pivots into the future of this new era.


Shifting Gears, Shifting Missions in a Time of Change

While the public narrative about business impact from COVID-19 has largely focused on which business categories are essential and which are not, the on-the-ground reality is far more complex. Many diversified enterprises fall into both depending upon geography, division, business function and products or services being delivered. Others are realizing they need to rapidly pivot operations to support critical needs in this time. IP leaders know that pivoting often means leveraging IP and thinking creatively about how innovation can drive these changes. In some cases, that has thrust them into the spotlight as idea drivers for their executive organizations.


Some Researchers Can’t Research, But They Can Strengthen Their Innovation Skills

One of the unexpected potential benefits for R&D-driven enterprises is that IP leaders can access the time of their research teams far more easily than under normal conditions. Sidelined from their laboratories by public health directives or restricted to very limited access hours, front-line researchers are now often sitting at home with “found time” that can be directed toward learning about innovation strategy and ideation; refreshing on how and when to disclose inventions and potential innovations; and how to review and update their portfolios. This represents an important pathway — using redirected time and availability to focus on learning, up-skilling, reviewing and engaging in often-sidelined learning and discussion around the gears of the IP engine.


Companies Are Adopting New Practices for the New Normal

Temperature checks at the parking lot entrance. Symptom checklists before clocking into a shift. Changes in work schedules and reconfiguration of operating practices. These aren’t just temporary emergency tactics — many of these and other changes could become permanent parts of the ‘new normal’ as enterprises respond to the realization that pandemic preparedness needs to be just as much a part of the business operating playbook as natural disasters, terrorism and any other ongoing source of risk. Enterprises with global footprints in particular are aware that this is not just a one-time event, but rather the harbinger of shifts in how companies assess and deploy risk management practices worldwide.


Careful Thinking is Going Into the Cost and Benefit of IP Portfolios

Companies that have historically renewed every patent or trademark in every jurisdiction just to keep assets active for a future in which they might need them are being forced to rethink that approach. Instead of assuming that their portfolios should be managed as they always have been, companies are engaging in long-overdue debates about the value of IP to their strategy and direction. Should every patent continue to be protected in every global jurisdiction where it might someday be of value, or should the company slim down its portfolio? Or, perhaps it’s time to finally leverage some of these under-utilized assets as strategic value drivers. Either way, the “maintain the status quo” assumptions are falling to the wayside as executive teams are looking to simultaneously cut costs and find new revenues, both things that IP strategy can play a role in supporting.


Summary: IP leaders are adapting rapidly, leading with strength and finding creative and effective ways to serve as a strong, consistent voice of guidance to their colleagues on the executive team as companies grapple with what daily shifts in our economic and policy landscape mean to the future of their enterprises. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure: Investing in innovation has its moment in the sun, and IP leaders are working hard to drive change through the power of new ideas and smart strategies for protecting and exploiting the intellectual capital and intangible assets of their organizations.

-Michael Dilworth 

Image Credit: Rawpixel Ltd (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

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.