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A Snake Under the Porch: The Risk of a Good Patent Strategy

May 9, 2022

By Robert Cantrell - Registered Patent Agent

The worst part about a good patent strategy is that no one knows what you did. The business maintains its freedom to operate because other enterprises respect the patents. A lawsuit does not happen because you anticipated where lawsuits could happen. You put the right clauses into agreements, demanded quality claims, and leveraged the quality of patent quantity if you happen to be a part of an enterprise with ample resources to build a cohesive patent portfolio.


The problem when nothing happens, however, is that people may presume nothing will happen, that the safeguards are unneeded, and that the expenses of the patent portfolio are, therefore, unwarranted. The patent portfolio becomes the snake under the porch. The conversation goes like this:


“I saw a snake under the porch. Get rid of it.”

“But snakes keep away mice.”

“We don’t have any mice.”


Everyone loses in this scenario, except the mice. The risk of inevitable mouse victories in patent portfolio management is significant enough and seen often enough that a colleague of mine built a business around it, producing short videos targeting executives so that someone other than the managers of patent portfolios could argue the importance of patent portfolios. Many of his customers are companies that would appear to have the least need for IP education. They don’t have mice.


Of course, as patent practitioners we need mice. We need a competitive entity willing and able to steal ideas—but for the patents. We just want those mice to be making examples out of others. And that may be the best way to maintain a good patent strategy: show what is happening to others and make clear the measures that have been taken to reduce the risks at home.

 

By Jose W. Jimenez, Esq – Former Chief Patent Counsel & Registered Patent Attorney


I am very fortunate to have some great legal colleagues working in such Fortune 500 companies as Ecolab, Boston Scientific, Abbott, Whirlpool, and Siemens, just to name a few. Most have the “snake under the porch” (hence…no mice.) because of their strong patent portfolios. Obviously, their position did not emerge overnight, and as Robert states in his blog, their respective executive management teams are fortunate to have my colleagues in their employ, ever vigilant and actively managing their patent portfolios. No news is good news.


But what about others who have landed great IP jobs at great companies or early-stage start-ups with excellent technology and market prospects—and an infestation of mice spiriting away intellectual property without concern?


So where do you start? Your first step is to sit down and review your company’s strategic plan and technology roadmap (or a similar document that was provided to the VCs). Secondly, sit down with the sales/marketing teams to understand their short-term competitive risks and where they find the competitive technical edge. Ask what key IP needs to be filed to lay retain or improve upon that competitive edge. Finally, generate your own corresponding strategic IP plan (that includes trademark and trade secret reviews), one you will review at least annually alongside the company’s strategic plan. Use this plan both to map your success and as a way to communicate the lengths to which you are working to keep the mice at bay. As a good patent strategic plan begins to evolve, the “mice” should notice a snake under the porch.


Feel free to reach out to us at any stage of your patent portfolio development process for your “pest” control needs, we are here to help.

 

If you would like to know more, please contact us on our CONTACT page.

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