From the moment we wake up in the morning, until the moment we lay our heads down on the pillow at night, we consume an immeasurable amount of information about every facet of our lives. Think about it, would you go to a movie or try a new restaurant without first Googling reviews and then checking out reservations or show times on booking sites like Open Table or Fandango? For most of us, the answer is probably no, because modern technology makes doing it so simple! Today’s technology delivers terabytes of data to our fingertips in an easily digestible, visual format that allows us to make better decisions.
The expectation in today’s business world is no different; this level of data availability is the standard from which we live our lives. Today’s first-class software solutions track, collate, analyze, and report on just about every aspect of a business and deliver information to the right people at the right time so they can make better, data-driven decisions. According to the American Bar Association, the most prosperous attorneys in 2020 will be those who successfully adjust their business models to use artificial intelligence–type tools while at the same time promoting and delivering the part of the legal service value proposition that the machines are not able to provide. Facing greater transparency in their work, escalating demands of their time, and heightened expectations from internal business units or clients, IP attorneys are arising as white knights bridging the gap between the technology revolution and a legal industry still mired by antiquated processes and procedures.
Although law firms have traditionally been slow to adopt technology, a 2015 survey conducted by Williams Lea Tag and Sandpiper Partners LLC reported that 64 percent of law firms now believe investing in technology is a priority. Attorneys are using technology to personalize connections with clients, automatically update legal documents, and improve operational efficiency—all of which frees up valuable time for client work, according to Law Technology Today. This is especially true for IP attorneys as they are on the front lines of technological growth. However, rather than implementing a variety of disparate solutions and falling victim to application gluttony, IP attorneys need an enterprise class solution that provides the breadth of capabilities needed to perform the exacting task of IP prosecution and management.
Below are the top three ways legal technology is improving IPM for attorneys.
Consolidate Your Applications & Data
Albeit the least sexy piece of technology aiding IP attorneys, a unified platform with an integrated data structure is the critical first step to managing a successful IP operation today. The most effective IPM systems run on a unified platform and enable attorneys to manage intake, output, and requests more efficiently. Moreover, unified solutions provide tools that can assess attorney and paralegal work performance, balance fluctuating workloads, and report to clients or the business regarding IP asset status, operational activity, and spend, just to name a few. This level of visibility and cross-functional integration isn’t possible without a unified platform that advanced IPM systems provide.
These systems are comprehensive Software as a Service (“SaaS”) platforms that unify the tools, workflow, data, documents, and services required to manage IP seamlessly. True enterprise class solutions also offer secure, self-service access to information and services to clients or business units and direct patent annuities, trademark renewals, and foreign filings from within the platform. With augmented integrations to other mission critical systems, attorneys can accurately evaluate IP operations worldwide, track resource and work allocation, and review operational output and quality in order to maximize their efforts and return on investment.
Become More Efficient
With mounting expectations for lower cost legal services and stagnant corporate IP budgets, leveraging process automation is quickly becoming a necessity to survive and thrive in a competitive global economy. IPM evolved beyond docketing, task management, and prosecution; many traditional IPM activities are mere commodities today. Further, daily tasks such as drafting PTO applications and Office action responses, performing prior art searches, and docketing can be immensely inefficient, difficult to learn, and laced with risk. IPM tools improve productivity by reducing data entry, streamlining drafting, and alleviating a myriad of other tasks that consume significant time and expose an organization to risk.
Automating prosecution tasks is a best practice of today’s innovative and competitive IP leaders. Optical character recognition, automatic document processing, and bulk action features allow paralegals to move from administrative tedium to more substantive work. Moreover, automated (CAD like) drafting tools, with integrated collaboration features, help attorneys draft higher quality applications and Office action responses faster. Shifting an entire IP team’s effort towards higher value work allows law firm leadership to focus on more calculated business counseling and provides corporate management the time to ensure their IP assets properly enhance the business’s strategy.
Leverage Data Analytics
According to CIO Magazine, worldwide revenues for Big Data and business analytics will grow from nearly $122 billion in 2015 to $187 billion in 2019. So, what does that mean for IP attorneys? Professional services is one of the top three industries currently benefitting from Big Data analysis and employing people with Big Data skills. Properly leveraging the insight Big Data provides can streamline operational efficiency and elevate an attorney’s work product for their firm or business.
After all, one of an attorney’s principal professional assets is their analytical mind, so wrapping it around the construct of Big Data analysis is a worthwhile endeavor. This data revolution is changing the way IP practitioners do business. Start with this concept; companies don’t operate in a vacuum, but rather as part of a global ecosystem of suppliers, customers, and competitors. In today’s world, companies all build technologies on the shoulders of those who have come before them.
Advanced IPM tools provide integrated analytics to forward thinking attorneys looking to elevate their practice or enrich their company’s IP portfolio. Grounded in data from billions of global patent documents and associated artifacts, IP practitioners can evaluate both asset strength and impact from data that exists internally within their own organizations as well as externally with the PTOs. Visualizing the data makes it easily digestible and helps align IP to the business’s or firm’s strategic objectives.
Moreover, IP software tools provide a data-driven performance review, in many cases, down to the individual practitioner level. Leveraging performance metrics, IP leaders can identify areas for internal improvement that drive corporate or firm growth and sophistication. The metrics below come from data pulled from the United States Patent Trademark Office (“USPTO”) website and evaluate the effectiveness of an attorney’s prosecution activities.
- Number of Issued Patents
- Number of Abandoned Applications
- Allowance Rate, Pendency
- Average Number of Office actions
- Office action Response Time
- Number of RCEs
- Appeal Win Rate
The tools available for Big IP Data search and analysis can also uncover valuable examiner statistics and help identify potential infringing products early in their lifecycle. For example, forward citation analyses and abandonment reports can tell patent holders whom they’re blocking from obtaining protection for comparable products, which allows them to assess licensing, divestiture, and litigation strategy. Analyzing this kind of data is critical to a timely evaluation regarding whether to send assertion letters, approach infringers for licensing opportunities, or, ultimately, file suit. Furthermore, this data is public; anyone with the proper tools can avail himself or herself of the insight it provides and leverage that knowledge to refine their operations and attain a competitive advantage.
A unified platform and process automation set the stage for better IP management; however, data analytics is what’s taking IP law practice to the next level.