Over the course of my legal career, I have had the opportunity to work at a small law firm, a mid-size intellectual property (IP) boutique, a large international law firm, and in-house at a startup company and two Fortune® 100 companies. During that journey, I have had a fair number of clients, staff members and managers, and have been fortunate to glean various nuggets of wisdom from my interactions with all of them. I now share those learnings – distilled into ten business-oriented rules – that in my humble opinion amount to excelling as an IP legal practitioner. While some of the following rules may sound a bit cliché, my explanations below are an attempt to craft them as powerful reminders that an IP lawyer is nothing without the clients/managers who are willing to pay their fee/salary. Thus, no matter whether your law firm billing rate is $200 or $1,200 per hour, or your in-house salary is $50,000 or $350,000 per year, these ten rules apply!
For the naysayers reading this, I will admit at the onset that there are differences in lawyering to a start-up versus an SME or even a large, multinational corporation. I further admit there are also differences in lawyering to entities that operate in different industries (e.g., automotive versus financial services). But these differences mainly involve specific legal knowledge and strategy, not in the general approach to lawyering itself. Now, onto the rules!
While I suspect that the 90 minute discussion will cover a great many things, the conversation starter for the panel is this: Can a company write a blog or does it need to be written by the owner, or some other high profile individual within the company, in order to achieve the maximum benefit?
One of the primary reasons for undertaking a blog is to engage in business development of one kind or another. Assuming that is the goal then it is absolutely essential, in my opinion, for their to be an actual person, or multiple identifiable people, doing the writing.
Searching online is increasingly one of the first things people do when they are looking for information. In order to develop business through a blogging strategy it is essential to tap into this phenomena, which is now the modern day equivalent of going to the Yellow Pages. But the Yellow Pages could only ever tell you so much about a company, what they offered, and virtually never provided any price information. It was also extremely difficult to convey expertise in a static advertisement, and impossible to do so only with a name and phone number listing. The Internet, of course, has changed everything.
Making a startup into a successful small business venture requires more than an entrepreneurial heart and willpower. It takes a loyal base comprised of engaged, connected customers and clients to help a business go from start up to sustainable.
In other articles and discussions, IP WatchDog has touched on building and improving a solid company website and networking off line, but what about online networks? What have you done lately to engage potential clients that find your company page online? Are you putting a priority on these efforts as well? If not, now is the time to get serious.
On May 31, 2013, I spoke with Glen Duff, a client of mine who is the inventor of an exceptionally easy to use wake board. In part 1 of our interview, which kicked off our Fun in the Sun Summer 2013 series, we discussed how the patented Zup™ Boardis the best selling product that Overton’s has ever seen in their 37 year history, as well as the importance of an inventor’s perseverance, bringing on industry experts to advise and engaging in a project you are passionate about.
In part 2, which is the final segment, Glen talks about how the patented Zup™ wake board is being made in America, which at a time when so many larger operations are moving offshore and outsourcing jobs is really quite refreshing. While there is a certain allure to selling products made in America, Glen explains that there is also a very real business reason as well. It is quite difficult to reliably enforce high quality standards when manufacturing is overseas.
We also discuss how Glen views himself as his competition as he continues to engage in research and development for improvements and future products, and how great it is to be able to put on a pair of shorts and jump on a boat as part of R&D efforts. I also ask him if he could go back in time to give himself advise based on what he knows now, what advise would he give? This leads us into an interesting discussion relating to the relative merits of licensing versus manufacturing and distributing yourself.
The emergence of mobile computing as a technology platform has been a game changing development in many ways. The ability to be connected anywhere and to have real time information at our finger tips has transformed the way we do business and live our lives. As this computing paradigm has gained mass market acceptance we’ve witnessed a series of patent battles among firms vying for their share of this lucrative market. These so-called smart phone patent wars have in turn motivated patent system critics to vociferously decry the system as an impediment to innovation, which must be eliminated or radically overhauled. Defenders of the system respond that patent battles are a characteristic of market competitionoccurring with other breakthrough innovations throughout our history, and that patents address the need to protect innovations to encourage investment in innovation.
Despite all the chatter however, there is something that we have not heard in the discussions about these smart phone patent wars. The debate seems to have focused on patents and the patent system and it has ignored the fact that this current patent battle is really a battle between three competing business models advanced by the three highly competitive mobile OS providers and members of their ecosystems. Apple is pursuing a fully proprietary business model where mobile OS and mobile hardware are proprietary to Apple. This is consistent with Apple’s prior business model in traditional computing which has worked quite well for them. Similarly Microsoft is advancing a business model much like its successful traditional computing business model with a proprietary OS and an “open” hardware platform that allows third party handset makers to provide phones running the Windows mobile OS. Finally, Google is advancing an “all open” model in which it uses Android, an open source mobile OS and an open hardware approach.
The month of January started off quite busy, which in all likelihood was as the result of deals and announcements either held over or that simply couldn’t get done in the run up to closing out the year. There was a noticeable lull in news and announcements with respect to patent deals, settlements and litigation announcements, and then things picked up a bit toward the end of the month.
This month some of the highlights included (1) an exclusive option to license drugs targeting Parkinson’s disease; (2) potential patent problems on the horizon for Facebook; (3) additional settlements in the Forest Laboratory’s BYSTOLIC® patent litigation; (4) the inevitable news from Acacia Research; plus more.
By now you may have noticed that most successful businesses have a blog. This is no coincidence. Blogging can help you gain customers, drive traffic to your website and raise your rank in the search engine result pages. Here is a list of business blogging do’s to help you get started with your own blog.
1. Choose an easy application.
One of easiest, most effective ways to blog is to use WordPress. It is the most common and widely used by many successful bloggers. The reason it is so popular is because it makes blogging easy. It provides you with templates and other tools to quickly and easily set up your blog. It is not necessary to know website design or even HTML with a plug-in blog platforms like WordPress. It also allows you to add a plethora or plugins and widgets to completely customize your blog; and again, it’s all quick and easy. WordPress.com is a free service, but you will be required to have wordpress.com as an extension on your web address. If you want your own, hosted site, you can go purchase a domain and install WordPress.org.
Since we last stopped by, there was a holiday break. But not surprisingly, 2013 began with a predictable rush of interesting news. So here are some of the most recent highlights, from court rulings and medical study findings to FDA doings and steps taken to developed new parameters for prescribing and clinical trials in various places.
For some, the year began on a disappointing note. That’s because the Obama administration again missed a deadline for releasing much-anticipated Sunshine guidelines for industry transparency. Late last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a final version to the White House for approval. But despite anticipation that guidelines would soon become public, the new year passed without a peep. Once again, all bets were off.
The guidelines, which became law as part of the Affordable Care Act, are supposed to set ways for gathering and publishing data that contain financial ties between physicians and drug and device makers. This would include ownership or investment interests held by a doctor or family member. Penalties for violations can range from $1,000 to $100,000. The CMS estimates it will cost industry and providers about $224 million in the first year and $163 million annually thereafter to comply.
The U.S. patent system has garnered a lot of attention over the past several months, much of it a negative portrayal of patents as a tool more likely to stifle than protect innovation—and much of that sentiment stemming from Apple’s recent legal triumph over Samsung.
As the larger business, government and societal debates continue relative to the future role and efficacy of the patent system, it’s worth taking a moment to remind ourselves that product and technology licensing is not anathema to the qualities of fairness and transparency.
Patent pooling is one example of a proven, effective tool that is helping industry better manage its licensing programs. By “pooling” patents from many license holders, licensors generally are able to lower transaction costs and administrative overhead, and benefit from a centralized model that encourages patent bundling and fair play. Licensees likewise enjoy advantages in the form of lower royalty fees and a single point of contact that eliminates the need to negotiate separately with multiple license holders.
On October 15, 2012, I went on the record with inventor coach, inventor and author, Stephen Key. To many Key is known as the man behind InventRight, which is a comprehensive 10-step program to help aspiring inventors.
Over the past several years, however, Key is becoming known as an author. Nearly two years after his first book — One Simple Idea: Turn Your Ideas Into a Licensing Goldmine — was published it continues to be in the top 50 books for small business on Amazon.com, and is #1 in small business marketing. In this segment of my interview we will learn that the book is still selling 100 copies per week, which is no small accomplishment two years later.
We pick up our conversation with where many inventors stumble as they attempt to move from idea person to small business person. We also discuss lessons learned from a Big Bang Theory episode, as well as the important of taking reasonable risks, protecting your innovations (Key is a fan of provisional patent applications to start) and the importance of knowing the market for your product. For part 1 of our conversation please see: Discussing Startups & Entrepreneurship with Author Stephen Key.