Everyone is in crisis mode right now. Even businesses that are doing still generating acceptable revenues should recognize these turbulent times as an opportunity to implement a couple quick fixes to your patent portfolio. In case your portfolio growth has been lacking direction lately and growing without enough direction and deliberation, here are a few of the fastest ways to begin right-sizing your portfolio and controlling your costs.
If you’ve been filing patent applications in a variety of countries over the years, your foreign portfolio can be massive and massively expensive. Since most foreign countries required annual fees for both pending applications and issued patents, the fees add up very quickly. You also might be paying for a local attorney and a foreign attorney, instead of a renewal service. You probably have some options to cut fees without dropping foreign cases, but you’ll get the biggest savings by letting go of cases in countries where you haven’t ever started manufacturing, made sales, or encountered direct competition.
There are a lot of justifications for building a large and diverse patent portfolio. However, you only need one reason to be measured in your approach. Simply put, you probably have a limited budget. If you’re not sure whether to be more offensive or defensive in your approach–each will lead to different decisions and asset mixes–then look to your actual operations as a model for the mix of offensive and defensive patent assets you want in your portfolio. If you’re in a very competitive market and you spend marketing and manufacturing resources trying to protect your market share, then you might want your portfolio to be more defensive. If you’re trying to grow your stature within your market, then you might opt for a more offensive patent portfolio. In some limited situations, you might characterize your past actions as one approach and make a deliberate decision to alter your approach to more offensive or defensive going forward. As long as that is an informed, conscious decision, then you should look at your portfolio to add more compatible assets and try to trim less compatible assets.
Every business division within your company should have its own IP strategy. The type of patents you obtain in one division might broadly cover pioneering technology, while you opt for a more measured and focused approach with another technology. Since your financial team is probably already scrutinizing the spending and revenue forecasts of every division in your business, make a point to get some information from them about each division. Then you can use those numbers to begin structuring your approach with IP spending to correspond. Although not guaranteed, the finance team might become one of your biggest fans as a result. More importantly, the direction of your IP portfolio will start to align with the overall mix of technologies and divisions within your organization.
There are a lot of sophisticated ways to implement patent strategy, but if you’re just starting then you might want to rely on a more basic approach. It’s likely you know which products are most important to your company’s bottom line. But do you know which patents correspond to those products? This isn’t always an easy task, but to some degree your patent portfolio should afford more protection to you most important products (if patent protection applies, otherwise you can look to trademarks and trade secrets in a similar way). A first-pass approach for this type of analysis is much like a “smell test” you might use in other areas of your business. If you are able to look at just the first claim (that’s claim #1) and the drawings of a patent and determine that it’s related to your top products, then put it in the important pile. Otherwise, you might need additional, detailed review to justify designating a patent as important. What you will likely find is a small pile of patents for your top products, a large pile of unknowns (of questionable value) and a third pile of patents that relate to outdated products or prior roadmap technologies that never made it to the market.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated and reliable approach to managing your portfolio assets, let’s connect. Intellectual Strategies implements a proprietary approach that begins with your true competitive advantage and aligns all of your portfolio decisions and actions with your business strategy. We don’t rely on the smoke-and-mirrors of an approach assuming that all intellectual property is inherently a competitive advantage–that’s simply not true for any business. We help you analyze your current portfolio and implement actionable, data-driven controls over the future costs and growth of your portfolio. And we do this in a multi-factored, structured platform that accounts for the granularity of your assets, your actual business strategy and tactics, and the relevant technical, legal, and business input of your multi-disciplinary team.
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