Holland & Hart LLP
How do you use automation tools to assist clients and foster innovation within your practice?
Holland & Hart partners closely with some of the world’s greatest tech companies, focusing on those with large business-critical patent portfolios. We help them to develop strategic, efficient and cost-effective solutions. About seven years ago we began to see opportunities to automate aspects of the patent application process that were repetitive and/or predictable. Our goal was to create new automation tools to complete tasks more efficiently and accurately, which would allow our team to focus on the aspects of the application that require enhanced skill and judgement. Our timing was right and our execution was strong – these tools resulted in significant gains in quality and efficiency.
Seeing this as an opportunity, we began to build our in-house Innovation Lab of developers and software engineers who harness machine learning to help meet these – and other – client needs. One key to our success is the tight collaboration between our patent practitioners, our innovation lab and our clients. In addition to advanced tools that assist in application drafting, external communications and backend workflow, our latest tool is ‘Respondent’, which supports the creation of customised, efficient office action responses. We are constantly creating and evolving innovative ways to leverage technology for our clients.
Which technological areas are showing the biggest growth in patent activity at present?
We have seen tremendous growth in 5G/wireless, autonomous vehicles, AI-related inventions and remote work and monitoring, as well as significant growth in the tech infrastructure needed to support these areas. The covid-19 pandemic accelerated many of these trends and it has been remarkable to see how well our clients and practitioners have adapted.
What are the key steps to securing a strong patent portfolio?
It is vital for a patent portfolio to be integrated into the bigger picture of a company’s commercial and strategic goals. Short- and long-term decisions about patents should not be made in isolation. Our team engages in ongoing conversations with our clients about their unique business objectives so that we can provide adaptive, creative counsel and secure strong, defensible patent applications.
It is also critical to have the right team in place – for example, new skill sets are needed to develop and use our next-generation technology tools. Individual team members often work on discrete parts of an application, utilising their specialist technical or legal skills. Our ability to deploy the right people for different aspects of a project helps us to create strong patents that support our client’s broader commercial strategies.
You were instrumental in bringing a regional patent office to Colorado. What did this involve and what impact has it had on your practice?
When we first suggested the idea of a regional patent office to USPTO Director Dave Kappos, he was incredibly supportive. We followed that with regular monthly trips to Washington DC to convince Congress, the USPTO and the Obama Administration of the merits of the idea. Tenacity and grit were the key ingredients, but it still took a lot of luck and the energetic backing of Senator Bennet and other Colorado leaders to make it happen.
Regional offices have significantly benefitted the innovation ecosystem, both locally in Colorado and across the United States. Perhaps the biggest benefit is public education and involvement in innovation – the programmes that the regional offices run have made a real difference in the lives of many budding inventors. In Colorado, it has underscored the state’s commitment to attracting some of the world’s most innovative companies and giving them the necessary tools and resources to flourish here. I think it has also helped to elevate firms with Mountain West roots (like Holland & Hart) to develop world-class patent practices.
How is the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) working to improve the US patent landscape?
AIPLA is an organisation that supports US IP professionals through advocacy, education and community. As a board member, I am incredibly proud to support the association and all that it stands for. AIPLA helps to inform legislators and policy makers in the United States and abroad to ensure an effective and balanced IP system, advocating for policies that stimulate and reward innovation but that also balance public interest in healthy competition, reasonable costs and basic fairness. The educational offerings are broad and deep, and the association’s members drive these initiatives through an extensive array of committees.
Michael L Drapkin
Michael Drapkin counsels some of the world’s most innovative technology companies in protecting their intellectual property, guiding them in the strategic development and management of their patent portfolios. Much of his national practice is concentrated in the electronics and computer fields, with an emphasis on wireless communications, semiconductors, software and medical devices. He leads a team of 50-plus computer and EEfocused patent professionals, creating new automation and workflow management solutions to deliver efficient, cost-effective legal services.