Hate mail for IP Strategy lawyers and IP Strategists

Do you hate IP Strategists and IP Strategy lawyers?

Should you?

Read Sinha‘s post over at the popular pluggd.in blog for StartUps – ‘Why I hate IP Strategy lawyers.’

Sinha is right.

The term ‘IP Strategy’ has been rendered meaningless by the number of people misusing it as a selling tool.  (But don’t get me started.)

Ask your advisors very tough questions, are they really thinking about your business and what’s best for you, or just trying to sell you more IP services?

Trusted advisors act in your best interests above their own.  They will tell you not to file certain patents (or any patents or trade marks), how to reduce IP spend, how to increase internal capabilities and therefore decrease IP spending and make better decisions.

Is that the nature of your IP advice?

It should be.

[image credit: This is Awkward]

13 Comments on “Hate mail for IP Strategy lawyers and IP Strategists

  1. Pingback: General Global Week in Review 1 November 2010 from IP Think Tank

  2. Patent law practitioners often inhabit an insular world that encourages a sense that IP is all-important. It’s only natural that their approach would emphasize IP, which is of utmost importance to them. That said, however, attorneys are not necessarily businessmen, and most of them would likely agree that they are not qualified to advise entrepreneurs on the daily nuts-and-bolts details of building their companies. Any entrepreneurs who are following such advice from their attorneys need to use more common sense.

    • Thanks – I think the issue was a certain frustration with overly focusing on acquiring IP at the cost of other more pragmatic issues, like, getting sales and pleasing customers…

  3. It would be interesting to know the nature of the interaction between the author and the lawyer who he is referring to. Was the author seeking business advice from the lawyer?

    • Here’s a quote from the original post, Rob:

      “Frankly, I don’t hate IP strategy consultants, but I hate the fact that they tend to promote IP strategy as “THE” strategy. To give you some context, I just had a meeting with an IP lawyer. While I agree on importance of IP, overrating the importance doesn’t help.

      The lawyer, like most of the other IP strategy consultant was over selling IP and almost said that even if you do not build a product (and for that matter, business) you can still have a good exit (because you have patent/IP over a technology).”

      • Thanks for the quote Duncan. I visited the website and it seems that the author is the founder of the website and its Chief Editor. His entrepreneurial venture seems to be the website on which he has posted this ‘hate mail’ and not some technology or IP startup as such. He also seems to be a ‘startup coach’ and not a technology entrepreneur himself. Hence, it appears unlikely that he was seeking IP advice for himself or for any specific person.

        When IP lawyers call themselves ‘IP Strategists’ and get involved with business aspects, it seems that the ‘startup coaches’ feel threatened. Also the language used in the article “sometimes it makes me feel like a dumn f**k when I see some of these IP lawyers being promoted as mentors (strategy gurus) ” appears to be rather offensive. It seems rather irresponsible for an editor to himself post such material on his website instead of editing it.

  4. I could not agree more about the overuse and abuse of the “IP strategy” mantra. In very many cases scratch the surface and it’s often just a sales pitch from service providers who actually have no experience of real world IP Strategy development and implementation. You will always have that issue when there is a conflict of interest given the service providers business model.

    Sinha’s comments beg the question: “Why did he seek advice? What was he hoping to get out of the interaction”? Sounds like he had an adviser who could only give a limited response to his needs. But would he be capable of seeking out and obtaining the correct advice? People like Sinha need trusted and capable advisers. Some patent attorneys can only give legal advice because that is the limit of their experience and expertise. So that is all they give. They can’t (don’t desire to) put their legal advice into a business context and it’s left up to clients to work it out. But there are patent attorneys that have the experience and willingness to provide business advice alongside legal advice to help get things right for the client. But is this valued?

    What is also needed is a willingness from the client to pay for business advice. Often early stage IP advice is provided free as a loss leader to filing patents etc, so no incentive to advise the client not to file a patent application. I have had plenty of heated discussions over the years with attorneys who do not feel it is their place to advise clients not to file patent applications . I wonder why?

    Some of the best legal/business advice I give to clients is in the first two hours of contact. But very many clients expect this contact time for free. Trust is two way. Trusted clients are needed as much as trusted advisers.

    When clients advise me that they have an invention my retort is: “The last thing you should do is file a patent application!” They sometimes take serious convincing to spend their money on other more useful things first such as my advice before filing for patents. I tend to walk away from those opportunities (?), whilst others great them with open arms!

    So a big part of the problem is the clients themselves. Their ignorance about IP and its role in business, their inability to spot good advice when they see it and an unwillingness to pay for “no-action needed” advice.

    • Thanks Nick – In the spirit of debate – You can’t be blaming the clients for this.
      Aren’t trusted advisors meant to understand and deal appropriately with the context of each client individually?
      Also I think it will always be risky asking a patent attorney for business advice it’s not their role, not their training and very rarely do they have the right experience.

      • I agree with your last point Duncan. Only wise with appropriate experience for complex advice. But you know some of the advice is pretty simple. It’s not rocket science to work out that some patents are not worth a bean. I had one client came to me needing a PCT application. They had a priority filing prepared by another patent attorney. I talked business first and found out that their best manufacturing costs were $5 a unit, the competition sold at $3! Bit of a no brainer but this was never explored by the original patent attorney. Not his “job”. The client did not file the PCT application and went back to the drawing board. One hours free advice!

        Of course you are right about how trusted advisers should work with clients once engaged. Trusted advisers should not provide a one size fits all service. Work with the client in their interest.

        But in order to advise a client you have to get interfaced with the client and that is largely driven by the clients. They need to become better informed purchasers of IP services and the commercial role of IP not the legal stuff. They need to take some responsibility for this themselves and not assume that all service options are the same and that free is worth having. It’s the same with every facet of their business nothing special about IP. I come across many clients who will research to death their selection for legal or financial advisers but will just pick the local mechanical patent agent to do their biotech patents work and he will do it! We all know that many businesses do not put the required management effort into addressing their IP issues and are very difficult and expensive to advise. In a nutshell they won’t pay for IP strategy advice, because they don’t realise they need it and it’s not the cheap option. Much cheaper to just file a patent application usually so that’s what they go with. You can lead a horse to water………..but he has to have the desire to drink! A lot of the problem is also client cynicism around IP, especially in smaller businesses. Sinha’s stance is not untypical.

        I agree with Marco’s comments. At the start it is business strategy/plan first….IP strategy last. You need a lot of quality inputs in place before you can flesh out an IP strategy. And the last point is the most important. IP strategy is an evergreen and iterative process once you have it worked out just like the business plan.

  5. Big true. Sometimes we see people so IP melted that they believe there is only one solution for companies.

    An IP Strategy does not make miracles.
    An IP Strategy is just a piece of the game.
    An IP Strategy must coordinate itself with all the company.

    As said, building a product, launching, defining product positioning etc is important and the IP Strategy must walk along with it. And work for it also.

  6. Duncan, do you think that “even if you do not build a product (and for that matter, business) you can still have a good exit (because you have patent/IP over a technology”? Surely there are inventors who make money purely from royalties and not by building ‘products’. Not all scientists or engineers make good entrepreneurs and an ‘exit’ with a patent makes sense for some.

    • Hi Yukie – sure thing, yes exiting with a patent can definitely be the best option – it depends on the total context – that’s the interesting and fun part. 🙂

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