Finance will take over

  • Client decisions will increasingly be made by financial, rather than IP, professionals
  • Tools will increasingly need to be understood by non-IP staff
  • Service providers will have to rethink how they present and package information

Investment and innovation may be driving growth in the patent service industry, but providers should not lose sight of what services clients need. This may be more difficult than it seems: customers are, as one interviewee put it, “sticky” and, as another said, “don’t want to pay for untested products”. There is also a degree of conservatism, particularly in big companies: one in-house counsel says it was only recently that he was allowed to start using an external IP management system.

As we discuss in our report on in-house patent departments, the higher profile of intellectual property and greater sums involved, combined with new approaches to risk management discussed above, will force IP issues up the corporate chain of responsibility. This may not be to the benefit of in-house counsel.

“As intellectual property becomes easier to understand, finance will take over – after all, they control the purse strings,” says one provider. CFOs and CEOs will not be satisfied with a freedom-to-operate opinion written by a patent attorney or lawyer and will be more comfortable with a spreadsheet compiled by an accountant or management consultant. As one insurance executive points out: “Our role is to make the company’s job easier – in particular, what to spend on M&A and how to value IP portfolios.”

“We want it faster and cheaper, but above all we want answers,” is how one in-house counsel sums up their needs. Another says he would like tools that mean it does not take three weeks just to understand a patent. That is the challenge for service providers: to offer accurate, useful and relevant information in ways that business executives can understand and act on.

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