Every year around this time, many pause to reflect on the past and present and chart a course for self-improvement. For aspiring or accomplished intellectual property (IP) strategists, the new year offers us a clean slate to bid farewell to bad IP habits and adopt sounder approaches to benefit the enterprises we represent, the teams in which we work, and our own careers.
To that end, consider these seven resolutions:
- Stop mistaking execution for IP strategy.
Too often, it’s assumed that any enterprise with a sizeable IP portfolio, an active IP program, and a hefty IP budget has an optimal IP strategy. Yet, enterprises sometimes get so caught up in their own processes that they lose sight of the big picture, devoting precious resources to pursuing and maintaining IP of questionable value. For suggestions on effecting more impactful IP strategies, check out my IPWatchdog articles Does Your IP Strategy Need a Tune-Up? and Seven Hallmarks of a Rational Global Patent Strategy.
- Keep abreast of IP issues, including monetization.
To be a capable IP strategist, you need to know how to leverage IP for maximum impact. This includes an appreciation of available offensive and defensive strategies, the state of the law, and trends in the patent monetization market. Via periodicals and blogs, conferences, and industry organizations, many of our peers share updates and insights we can draw from to complement our own knowledge and experience.
- Don’t try to counsel clients via email.
Email has its place, but it’s no substitute for dialogue on strategic matters. Pick up the phone or schedule an in-person meeting instead. When you do send emails, craft them thoughtfully with a view towards conciseness and relevance.
- Challenge the status quo.
The path of least resistance is tried and true, but chances are, it’s not the best one to follow. Does your team have a clear vision with measurable objectives? What types of issues does your team work on, and how efficient are organizational processes? Could certain tasks currently performed internally be cost-effectively outsourced to an external party or discontinued altogether? What IP analytics, IP asset management, and productivity software could be employed to help deliver better results? Think about areas in which your team can improve and work collaboratively to implement changes where appropriate.
- Venture out of the office.
If you’re like many IP strategists, a significant portion of each day involves intense focus on conceiving and executing IP strategies. Apart from these critical job functions, are you taking the time to invest in your professional relationships both within and outside your organization? If not, you may be missing opportunities to learn, build your network, and be energized by the many talented and dynamic individuals whose careers intersect with IP.
- Make and execute a plan for professional growth.
Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, your current skills and skill gaps, and your near- and long-term career goals and objectives. Maybe you’d like to increase the number of patent transactions you handle annually or undertake more post-grant proceedings at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Or perhaps you want to become a stronger counselor, leader, or mentor in your organization or the wider professional community. Once you’ve taken inventory, create a plan with specific action items calculated to help you move forward. Then, proceed to execute the plan and revisit and modify it throughout the year.
- Have fun.
In recent years, life as an IP strategist admittedly has been turbulent. Pivotal judicial decisions, the America Invents Act, and their application in the USPTO and the courts have been widely viewed as reducing the value of patents in the United States. Still, the fundamentals of our work remain intact. Whether we practice in law firms, consulting firms, corporations, or other collectives, we’re called upon to be as resourceful and creative as ever as we tackle complex legal, technical, and business issues. Along the way, we have the privilege of teaming up with great clients and colleagues in law and business. Try not to lose sight of the “fun” in these fundamentals.
Happy New Year!