April 29, 2020

19 Things In-House Counsel Can Do During the Lockdown To Improve Their IP Portfolio

Lockdown fatigue is setting in and budgets are tightening, but there are plenty of things that you can do at little or no cost while hunkered down at home to improve your company’s IP Portfolio for when business resumes.

  1. Establish a company-wide IP Policy. An IP Policy can help cast the company in a more favorable light should a dispute arise, and they can actually drive employee conduct.
  2. Establish a formal trade secret program, including protocols for protecting the Company’s trade secrets and confidential information, and an employee training program to make sure those protocols are followed.
  3. Update the Company’s Employee Agreement. Does your agreement include a present assignment of employee inventions? Does it take into account the Defend Trade Secret Act? Does it take into account state employee inventor statutes. Does it give the Company a power of attorney to act for departed or uncooperative employees?
  4. Update your invention disclosure form. Does it take into account the changes in the AIA? Does it include a assignment of rights?
  5. Establish a virtual IP Committee that can meet using an online documents to evaluate new disclosures and make maintenance decisions.
  6. Cull the IP portfolio to reduce ongoing maintenance costs. Look for donation opportunities to off-load unused IP in a tax-advantageous manner. Consider making some IP available for compulsory licensing, which can reduce maintenance costs by as much as 50%,
  7. Look for licensing opportunities to generate revenue from the portfolio. A good source of licensees are owners of patents and applications cited in your own patents and applications, and the owners of patents and applications which cite to your patents and applications.
  8. Look for enforcement opportunities. A good source are the owners of subsequent patent applications where your patents have been cited.
  9. Polish up your Confidential Disclosure Agreements. Do they take into account effects of the AIA?
  10. Establish procedures for handling the receipt of unsolicited ideas from outside the Company. These continue to be a source of risk from unfounded claims.
  11. Audit patent marking, and finally get around to virtual patent marking under 35 USC 287(a).
  12. Audit trademark marking, and particularly where U.S. products with brands marked with an ® are exported to and countries where the mark is not registered.
  13. Create definitive trademark use guidelines.
  14. Revamp the Company’s website’s terms and conditions.
  15. Establish a Company social networking policy and email guidelines.
  16. Finally take the time to see how the Madrid Protocol can reduce maintenance costs, and expand the scope of the Company’s trademark portfolio.
  17. Create a permissions form to address requests for permissions to use the Company’s trademarks and copyrighted materials.
  18. Register copyrights for the Company’s product literature, packaging, advertising, and promotional materials. Registration is a prerequisite to bringing suit, and obtaining the registration before infringement gives access to an award of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.
  19. Create a new employee IP orientation program.