02/16/2009

Attorneys Handling Patent Portfolio Management in Times of Economic Crises

Even a year ago, budgets were bigger for pursuing patent protection for technologies.  In the face of current economic crises, organizations are using a more critical eye to scrutinize all areas of corporate expenses, including resources allocated for building a patent portfolio.  Companies with a long term view that recognizes patents as assets, rather than expenses, may have greater tolerance for budgeting money towards IP acquisition.  But, the bottom line is that most of America is cutting back, and as a result, faced with difficult trade-off decisions.

When faced with decisions as to which inventions to patent and where in the world to pursue patent protection, many individualized business considerations come into play.  First off is budget.  An organization should set a budget and working within that budget, develop a patent portfolio strategy based upon the organization’s goals in obtaining patent protection.  Whether a company’s goal is to establish an IP portfolio to monetize, position the company for acquisition, or to patent for defensive purposes, there are many different approaches to portfolio development and management.

Possible strategies include evaluating the importance of different technologies to a company’s business, and patenting only core technologies.  However, side business technologies sometimes spin-off to become profitable new opportunities as economies and technologies change, and patent protection may help provide competitive advantage in an emerging business area.  Accordingly, strategic planning consideration should be given to areas of non-core business prior to deciding to forego patent protection. 

Traditionally, many global strategies included offensive and defensive patenting in the locations of a company’s and/or competitor’s facilities worldwide.  But patenting abroad and enforcing foreign patents may be quite costly, and intelligent portfolio management in the current world economy likely includes a new approach to foreign patent planning. Conversely, patents in some foreign countries are less costly to enforce than they have historically been, so there may be less deterrence to pursuing patent protection in foreign countries.

Other portfolio considerations involve how many patents to pursue within a particular technology area or “family” of patents.  Given patent law reform proposals, emerging USPTO examination guidelines and procedures, and current economics, a targeted and well thought out approach should be employed to make decisions concerning continuation and divisional practice, to strike a balance between broad claim coverage and prosecution efficiency.  

Many organizations have patent review boards or internal patenting criteria to provide guidance for making patenting decisions and to make trade-off decisions to meet budgets.  Companies currently employing patenting guidelines may find themselves needing to update policy to adapt to changing economic situations.  Obtaining and enforcing patents is costly, and taking the time to establish an efficient approach to portfolio development and management may better keep patenting expenses within budgets and yield a more valuable and streamlined portfolio.

If you have a patent issue, or wish to register a patent, you may contact one of our patent attorneys for a free evaluation or call 866.936.7447 (International Toll Free).

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