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IPO Annual Meeting: How counsel transform operations with data

L to R: Shayne Phillips at Anaqua; Joel Meyer at Digimarc; Elizabeth Lester at Equifax; Jayne Piana at Fletcher Yoder

Speakers from Equifax, Digimarc and elsewhere suggested how to best use data and analytics for patent processes

Advanced analytics are transforming the way all organisations are managed – and law firm and corporate legal departments are no exception, according to a panel at this year’s IPO Annual Meeting in Austin.

Speakers from Equifax, Digimarc, Anaqua and elsewhere said yesterday, September 21, that intellectual property harvesting and patent portfolio management in particular could benefit from more data-led approaches in an effort to maximise patent quality.

Shayne Phillips, patent agent at IP services provider Anaqua in Houston, said companies could use data to work out which inventors worked best with which lawyers, for example.

“For those of you building your own portfolios, you should be asking: who works best with who and which people create good things when we put them in a room together?”

Elizabeth Lester, assistant general counsel for IP at Equifax in Atlanta, agreed that this was a good use of data, and added that it was important to be able to track the ups and downs of invention disclosure and have an idea of why dips might have occurred.

Joel Meyer, executive vice president for innovation at tech firm Digimarc in Oregon, said his company used data and analytics in its quest to build a portfolio and protect its products while establishing a licensing programme.

“We knew we had to build patents to withstand challenges, and to do that we had to find a way to map out the composition of our portfolio.

“We did that by creating a taxonomy with multiple tiers – core technology, how those technologies flowed into products and product configuration, and finally the applications variance.”  

He added: “At that highest level, you had to consider whether there were competing technologies that you wanted to create classifications around so you were targeting your portfolio to those competing technologies.”

Jayne Piana, shareholder at law firm Fletcher Yoder in Houston, added that counsel could even use data on the length of time the USPTO spent analysing a patent application to determine its quality, on the basis that the office would spend more time on more robust patents.

“It’s not a perfect metric but it is one that we’ve used to help our clients achieve their IP strategy goals,” she said.

Phillips noted that the ultimate goal for law firms and legal departments should be to get to a point where data use was second nature.

“When you get to the point where you’re gathering data as early as possible in your IP creation processes and able to build models that allow you to make decisions now for future benefit, that’s when you’ll be hitting that sweet spot and where you should be moving,” she said.

Data dilemmas

Speakers went on to talk about the challenges they faced in setting up their companies to be more data-savvy.

Lester at Equifax pointed out that data is often kept in multiple places and may not be easily linked together.

“One challenge then as you start moving into data analytics for IP is making sure you’re setting reasonable expectations for yourself and your clients,” she said.

She added that counsel should be careful to select the right data analytics tools as they start to build their processing power with new solutions.

“You should make sure the different tools you invest in can work with one another – that’s very important,” she said.

“You should think about it because even if you don’t have the capability just yet, there may be a point in a couple of years where you’ll need your financial systems to speak with your IP asset management systems.”

Piana added that it could be a struggle to get buy-in from the company when introducing new data-led processes. The trick, she said, was to properly communicate with stakeholders to ensure they understood how the change would benefit them and the company as a whole.

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