As companies identify and track their intellectual property (“IP”) assets, recognize the positive value of those assets and begin to establish andapply procedures for managing and enhancing them, it becomes essential to organize and hold regular IP Strategy meetings. Organization and knowledge are the keys to unlocking real success through IP.
1. Purpose: Two primary purposes for holding IP Strategy meetings include: 1) to maintain focus on your company’s IP goals; and 2) to make the necessary IP decisions for your company to progress. By providing an organized forum and process for reviewing the status of each IP asset and for discussing changes since the last meeting (good or bad), decisions regarding your valuable IP are not forgotten or ignored. As decisions to act or not act are made and recorded in an organized fashion, those decisions are carried out.
2. Who Should Attend: Who and how many people should attend an IP Strategy meeting depends on the size and structure of your company. Ideally, attendees should include the company employees and consultants who perform the following roles: 1) Ultimate IP Decision Maker; 2) IP Manager; 3) Inventor; 4) Marketing Director; 5) Business Development Manager; 6) IP Manager Assistant; 7) IP Legal Counsel; and 8) Other Attendees as needed by your company to meet the purpose of your meeting. The roles of each person on the list are important to making an informed decision on IP for a company. Whether a particular person attends for the entire meeting or for only portions of the meeting relating to their particular role will vary depending on the company and the length of the planned meeting. For some companies there may be several people in each role at a particular meeting or sub-committee meetings with different mixes of attendees (e.g. large companies typically involve multiple departments or projects). For other companies there may only be two or three people in attendance at the meeting or two primary attendees and others who come to report to the IP Strategy Committee at various times during the meeting. For some companies, multiple roles may be filled by one person. Whatever the mix of IP Strategy meeting attendees, you should ensure the attendees include those who ultimately understand and can make the decisions on the company’s IP future.
3. How to Prepare: Experience has shown that a key feature of a successful IP Strategy meeting is an organized agenda with the pertinent topics that carry over from meeting to meeting. Whether your company holds its meetings bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly, as new questions, information and decisions arise between meetings, they should be reported to the IP Manager or IP Manager’s Assistant for inclusion on the IP Strategy Meeting Agenda (see What to Discuss section). If the items are not added to the agenda between meetings (i.e. emailed to the IP Manager/Assistant as soon as they arise or the information is gathered), they are generally forgotten. Having a common location and procedure for adding them to the list ensures they will be remembered and that someone will follow up on them. While each attendee may submit information for any topic on the agenda, it often helps to have someone responsible for particular topics. Assigning action items on the agenda to particular attendees with a deadline is very effective. Forward the completed agenda, or at least a draft, to the attendees a day or two before the meeting as a reminder of the meeting and what is expected from the attendees at the meeting. During the meeting, when each agenda item is reached, the attendee responsible for it can report and update with the needed information, if any. It also works well to have the IP Manager or Assistant updating the agenda during the meeting for future items. An updated agenda is sent to all attendees within a day or two after the meeting as a confirmation of what was discussed and to ensure correct information was updated. With an up-to-date agenda, an IP Manager/Assistant coordinating the agenda, and all IP Strategy Meeting attendees forwarding relevant information and materials to the IP Manager/Assistant for inclusion on the agenda, your chances for a successful IP Strategy Meeting are greatly increased.
4. What to Discuss: Discussion during an IP Strategy meeting should include any or all of the following topics in relation to how they affect the company’s goals and business purposes:
1) Status of Company’s Existing IP Projects, namely: a) Inventions (provisional patents, utility patents, new products ready for market, novelty searches, new ideas to evaluate since the last meeting, and brainstorming and patent busting); b) Company Image (branding concerns, new products ready for market, trademark usage, trademark searches, trademark applications and registrations and good will); c) copyright registrations; d) Trade Secrets; and e) Licensing (existing license maintenance, new license opportunities); 2) Competitor Intelligence (what is my competition doing?, what new IP do they have?, do their patents or products need to be bracketed?, are we considering their direction in our IP decisions?); 3) IP litigation concerns or ongoing litigation status; and 4) Other miscellaneous items. The length of your IP Strategy meeting will depend upon your company’s needs. If your meeting is longer than two hours, it is recommended that you consider whether every attendee needs to attend the entire meeting or whether the meeting could be divided up by topic and held at different times.
5. Result: IP-Related Action List for Company: By updating the agenda during the meeting with new action items, an assigned attendee responsible for the action item and a report deadline, each attendee leaves the meeting with an IP Action List and all attendees know the status of the company’s IP. By forwarding updated agendas to attendees soon after the meeting and again a few days before the next meeting, each attendee is reminded of what is expected and will be better prepared to participate. The well kept IP Strategy Meeting agenda also acts as a summary report of the company’s IP status for other management interested in the company’s IP.
Without an IP Strategy meeting, company IP purpose and organized plan, a company’s IP future will move forward only when management feels it has time to devote to IP. With the pressures of modern business life, that pace is most often slow or non-existent. In contrast, by devoting only a few hours a month to organizing and holding an IP Strategy meeting with the right attendees, a company can quickly organize itself, get back on track to a successful future and protect its most valuable assets in a way that meets its business needs and purpose.