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The demand for more efficient, cost-effective, and innovative ways of managing IP advice and routine administrative tasks has transformed the IP services industry. The COVID-19 pandemic will only accelerate this trend, as Reinhard Ottway of NovumIP explains.
It was no surprise to learn, as part of our recent industry benchmarking research, that nearly nine in ten IP professionals have felt the impact of COVID-19 on their organisation or IP strategy. The ongoing pandemic has challenged everything, from budgets and technology to attitudes to home working.
NovumIP’s research also revealed, however, that six in ten are very confident that their IP and organisation will emerge in good shape—a measure of IP professionals’ resilience and the economic importance of IP.
For our “IP Benchmarking Report” (to be published in January), we surveyed more than 500 IP professionals globally for their views on everything from supplier consolidation, the impact of COVID-19 on IP filing and enforcement, to corporate investment intentions for 2021 and beyond.
The findings reinforced three key priorities for the new global IP economy: empowering IP professionals, delivering efficiencies, and driving value creation. We believe that addressing these three challenges will result in a better functioning, more efficient and therefore more productive IP market, with businesses able to generate greater value from their IP assets.
Empowerment through alignment
As businesses have expanded the size and reach of their portfolios across multiple markets and geographies, including online, the management and enforcement of IP has naturally become more complex.
These days, most global IP management and protection strategies entail a heavy administrative burden for IP owners. This is exacerbated by the legal complexity of managing IP regulations in different jurisdictions, combined with the need to manage disparate IP service providers, which typically focus on a single service or jurisdiction, and often operate on competing or incompatible platforms.
“IP professionals need access to tailored strategic advice that is appropriate for the local market in which they operate.”
There are cost pressures to negotiate, too—while the number of filings continues to rise, IP budgets are not increasing, or at least not at the same speed. As a result, IP owners and their advisers need to achieve a lot more with fewer resources—a pressure that has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on national and global economies.
What is the solution? We believe a holistic view of IP portfolios is necessary to effectively inform decisions and justify cost, and this means legal advice and administrative services should not remain in silos. Instead, IP professionals need access to tailored strategic advice that is appropriate for the local market in which they operate, but which is linked efficiently to reliable and cost-effective IP support services, such as renewals, recordals or European patent validations.
What we mean by efficiency
The trend to commoditise IP administrative tasks via specialist providers has enabled many IP departments to save money. However, it has also separated service delivery from strategic advice, which in turn has led to its own challenges.
As a result of disconnected IP services and tools, and lack of customisation, many IP professionals report feeling forced to take what they are given, limiting their choice of local delivery partners and/or IP technology.
Digital transformation and demand for greater transparency have already resulted in some improvements, but there is still more that can be done. We believe the focus should be on providing a global platform that offers modular IP services, so that clients can access the support they need without, for example, having to take all elements of a service or migrate their data across to an entirely new platform each time they change supplier.
“The focus should be on providing a global platform that offers modular IP services.”
Our benchmarking report revealed that there is definite room for improvement when it comes to IP technology and systems, with over a third of professionals globally facing challenges with outdated technology, long-term commitments and ‘all or nothing’ delivery approaches.
We believe an open IT infrastructure with interoperable interfaces is key to providing flexibility and increasing coherence between legal advice, technology and administrative processes.
Indeed, interoperability between technologies and suppliers came out on top across the globe (42%) as one of the areas in which IP departments would like more support or greater efficiency from their IP service providers.
Value creation, and doing more with less
As the COVID-19 pandemic pushes us into another period of economic stress, it is inevitable that the pressure on IP owners and their suppliers to justify budgets and demonstrate IP value will increase.
History has shown that companies that invest in innovation emerge from recessions in a stronger position. Indeed, when times are tough, investing in IP assets can not only help businesses to survive, but also give them a huge competitive advantage and drive economic growth. Nonetheless, when finances are restricted, budgets need to be cut somewhere.
For IP owners, finding a balance between cost and quality—and therefore using the right suppliers—will be crucial if they are to protect and strengthen their portfolios and prove their value to the business, so they too can come out stronger from the downturn.
A change in mindset is also necessary: IP is still viewed by many as a cost centre, rather than an investment, and this viewpoint is likely to become more prevalent in a recession. As an industry, we have a part to play in supporting our clients to change the conversation from one of cost, to one of value.
At all times, but particularly in turbulent ones, clients need a trusted partner who goes above and beyond to share best practice and global benchmarking advice, as well as providing flexible services and support.
As long as services are provided in silos, it will be a challenge for in-house IP departments to recover the valuable time they spend on managing suppliers and quality control. Indeed, as belts are tightened, centralisation of data and suppliers will become crucial to streamlined operations and informed decisions.
In our vision for the future of IP services, smart technology is employed not only to speed up manual processes, but also to help IP owners to streamline time-consuming IP management tasks and manage portfolio and legal complexity.
Data analytics and dashboards can be used to track return on IP investment and provide the holistic perspective that is needed to support corporate decision-making. As a result, IP professionals will be freed up to focus on value creation, rather than spending their valuable time reviewing lengthy reports or managing supplier invoices and correspondence.
How can we rise to the challenge?
The three challenges outlined above are by no means easily addressed, but with support from industry stakeholders and a joined-up effort to improve the experience of IP owners, we can make big strides in achieving a more efficient and productive IP ecosystem.
Reinhard Ottway is chairman of NovumIP. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
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