5 Ways IP Law Firms Can Adapt, Evolve and Thrive in 2017

IP law firms are part of an ever-changing landscape, with new legislation and regulation constantly challenging the IP industry. In a new whitepaper, ‘Adapt. Evolve. Thrive’ from CPA Global, IP Law firms are encouraged to embrace innovation and technology for more efficient operations and enhanced client collaboration. What practical steps can IP law firms take to distinguish themselves from competitors? Here lawyer monthly hears from Ian Johnson, Head of legal at CPA Global.

  1. Stay ahead of regulatory changes

There have been a number of recent reforms in key jurisdictions that are significantly impacting the law firm market. Following the Brexit vote in the UK, it was widely expected that the UK would not join the Unified Patent Court. However, the government will now continue ratifying the EU’s patent plans.

In North America, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) switched the US patent system from ‘first to invent’ to ‘first inventor to file’, pressurising businesses to file early. While the Inter Partes Review also made it easier and more cost effective to challenge granted US patents.

IP law firms need to must maintain an understanding of key regulatory changes and the impact new legislation could have on IP management. In addition, managing corruption and bribery risks, and complying with legislation, are now among companies’ biggest priorities for law firm counsel.

  1. Invest in the client’s success

Corporate IP departments are experiencing growing pressure to file selectively and manage their portfolios more effectively. Filing patents is time consuming and costly and, to be profitable, businesses must be sure each filed invention will deliver return-on-investment. IP law firms should always consider the best way to drive a business’s value, for example, advising where to spend money or where to concentrate on earning revenue. For IP law firms to retain clients, they need to invest time in growth. By adapting client advice in-line with their needs and finance levels, IP law firms are helping build a stronger foundation for all future IP offerings.

  1. Choose big data

Clients have higher expectations of technology to reduce overheads and increase productivity. Big data and analytics should be a key consideration for IP law firms looking to embrace innovation. Big data analysis of IP prosecution data, and rankings of IP attorneys and firms allow corporates and law firms to make more informed decisions about individual patent cases and the partners they work with.

Technologies such as cloud computing and machine learning, alongside easily available large data sets, can generate business insight from IP data quickly. This facilitates a radical new way of understanding what is protected and, more importantly, what is not.

  1. Embrace metrics

Law firms should consider embracing prosecution metrics to provide insight into attorney performance and prosecution efficiency. Currently, the largest proportion of IP budget is spent on filing and prosecution. The ability to remove filings with a low probability of success or commercial impact, and increase higher probability filing, will help to ensure a more successful use of budgets. Client costs can be reduced, including ongoing R&D expenditure, focussing the company on where success is most likely to be achieved: new products; technology; and business strategy.

  1. Become a strategic partner

To make the most of their IP portfolios, clients are looking for law firms to develop a better understanding of their products, their competitors and their business strategies. The role of the IP law firm should involve more than IP protection, law firm partners should be now be a sounding board for commercial decisions.

Clients are increasingly interested in patent quality, not purely from a standard of legal defensibility but from a commercial and strategic business perspective. This requires their law firm partners to become even closer strategic partners.

The argument for IP law firms to be an integral part of a client’s strategic business planning and development has never been stronger. Most IP law firms look similar to potential clients, so there is a real opportunity for those who can increase their relevance to their client base with these five steps.

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