Why It’s Time for Legal to Embrace the Cloud – Part II

Two weeks ago, in Part I of this post, we covered some Cloud Computing 101 and started to discuss how switching to the cloud increases business agility and cost efficiency, thus creating positive ROI. We also busted some popular myths about data security and availability in the Cloud. Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into the benefits, specifically for corporate IP/Legal departments.

Benefits of the Cloud

Generally, the only logical reason to move forward with one technology over another is because the pros outweigh the cons, and you’re realistically confident the implementation will generate a positive ROI. Plenty of cloud deployments have delivered just this in recent years as the switch to SaaS has created overall process efficiencies by enabling businesses to embrace a “better, faster and cheaper” reality.

You don’t have to search far to find a calculator or methodology to model the numbers generated by this reality. Whether you need a simple or complex model to convince the decision makers, the benefits of the cloud have been increasingly apparent in years. Here are some of the benefits that should convince even the most sceptical CFO, CIO or CEO:

Total Cost of Ownership

Even using a back-of-the-envelope method, the Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) calculation will fall in the cloud’s favor vs. on-premise. Avoiding hardware and software license costs and overhead related to internal IT administration alone will usually aggregate into clear TOC benefits over traditional software implementations, even before you start quantifying the efficiencies that will lead to doing more with less internally as well as reduce your bills with outside counsel.

Productivity

Anytime, anywhere access to real-time information is one of the productivity boosts that the cloud delivers. As long as you can connect information to the Internet, you should be able to realize important productivity savings. You can be anywhere, the information can be anywhere, and those with whom you need to share the information can be anywhere. You don’t need to worry about network access or VPN configuration. Log on, log in and start working.

This is especially valuable as the world’s workforce becomes more mobile and less centralized. Tens of millions telecommute whole or in part every week. Millions of organizations use contractors. Telecommuting and external contracting are two areas that are much more viable and effective due to cloud options.

Streamlined Processes

Process improvement can be a huge benefit, one large enough to alone justify the selection and implementation of a cloud-based system. With an increasingly globalized workforce, facilitating effective communication and collaboration across a large organization with multiple sites around the globe is much easier than in the pre-cloud world.

Time-to-ROI

Companies migrating to the cloud typically experience a much shorter time-to-value. This means that they begin to see and quantify material returns and benefits very quickly once they go live.

What Happens to an IP Organization that Leverages the Cloud?

While the Cloud isn’t the cure-all for everything ailing a company, it certainly delivers myriad benefits as outlined above. There is a growing body of evidence, a.k.a. real-world examples, of how legal departments in large and small organizations are doing more with less after opting for the Cloud and selecting a SaaS offering to manage their IP-related information and activities.

Here are a few examples of what companies using IPfolio have been able to do:

1. Improving Strategic Visibility

At a high level, the Cloud has enabled companies to connect IP assets (such as patents, brands, trademarks, and copyrights) to products, geographies, markets, and revenue streams. Having visibility into the entire IP portfolio enables strategic decision-making to keep the IP portfolio aligned with the development of your company’s products and markets.

2. Data that You Can Trust, at Your Fingertips

Say adieu to spreadsheets with dozens of tabs and worksheets. Start enjoying data integrity that will allow you to efficiently produce reports for management, administer your inventor awards program, and keep track of prosecution milestones and costs, as well as all related documents.

This is particularly important in fast-moving industries, where employees involved in the decision about filing a patent are not unlikely to move on to their next gig before the patent even issues. When deciding about a renewal, many years after the patent was filed, it can be invaluable to have proper documentation at hand about all the factors involved in earlier decisions.

3. Managing Access for External Parties

A SaaS tool like IPfolio makes collaboration with external patent attorneys and fellow employees in distant locales as simple as providing and managing access to the information they need. Everyone gets the right level of access to online IP records, which are immediately updated with changes viewable by everyone. You can instantly enable or disable permissions for specific groups of users. You have control. They have access.

4. Tracking Ideas From Invention to Outcome

With a cloud-based Inventor Portal and Review Board, it is easy to track and monitor the evolution of an IP asset from the invention stage through to the issued patent, as well as the commercial product(s) the patent protects, and keep the inventors engaged all along the process.

Are You Ready for Your Test Drive?

The Cloud has arrived. Legal departments shouldn’t let their finance, sales, marketing, HR and operations peers reap all the benefits. The same data access, accountability, pain point relief, and efficiency gains that make it so much easier to focus on what matters most are well within reach of the legal org chart.

We have to ask, of course. If you’d like to see what the Cloud and IPfolio could do for your IP portfolio, why not take it for a spin.

Your test drive keys await. Contact us to pick them up.

Silicon Valley IP Leaders Gather at IPforward Conference

June 26, 2015

“If you’re going to get into a fight, you want to have at least 10 patents that you can assert.”

 

“In the Valley, many software engineers consider themselves IP open sourcers.”

 

“At my first meeting with the senior management team, the CTO said he hates patents.”

 

“If you can spend the money to file a patent, you can spend the money to reward inventors.”

 

“Fixed-fee arrangements with outside counsel are a stupid idea.”

These are just a handful of the nuggets thrown out yesterday by speakers at our first IPforward conference in San Mateo, an event focused on the business side of IP.

Attendees, who came from a half-dozen states for a great turnout, heard from IP experts driving strategy at companies including Bio-Rad, Logitech, Quixey, Square, Workday, Zynga, and more. Individual presentations were bookmarked by lively panel discussions and lots of active participation from a great audience made up of almost 90% in-house counsel. Companies represented ranged from startups to Silicon Valley icons like Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

IPforward networking break

IP Strategy, Culture, and Collaboration

Lisa McFall, Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property at Workday, kicked off the sessions with her presentation on Defining Your IP Strategy and Selling it to the C-Suite. She laid out a framework for creating the right portfolio with a clarity that drew raves from the audience. Lisa’s presentation also included much-appreciated hands-on, real-life examples of success stories as well as cautionary tales.

Teddy Joe, who clearly has the coolest title in the IP world – Mayor of Patentville – is Zynga’s senior IP counsel. His Selling the [idea of the] Patent Portfolio talk included lots of food for thought on getting the message out within the company, as well as details on how an IPfolio-driven Inventor Portal has raised participation by the engineering team.

Quixey, which is probably one of the Valley’s fastest growing startups, loaned us its VP of IP Taher Savliwala for the morning. In his talk on Building your IP Dream Team, Taher provided a play-by-play account of how he uses outside contractors to really stretch his IP budget with incredible efficiency and ROI. He certainly opened people’s eyes about the possibilities to outsource patent drafting work in very intelligent and unconventional ways, prompting the comment “you are a genius” from a Chief IP Counsel in the audience.

Overwhelming Feedback

With 85% of the participants in our post-event survey rating IPforward “Excellent” and the remaining 15% giving us “Very Good” marks, everyone seems to agree that IPforward was a fantastic opportunity for both networking and earning CLE credits. The positive feedback continues to pour in, and we can’t help but share some comments made after the sessions and in response to the survey:

“It was a home run – everyone engaged and great information passed along.”

 

“Relevant and full of people that are handling the same issues so that we can all help each other out.”

 

“Very sophisticated and thought provoking.”

 

“The conference was hitting on many topics that are real issues for me now.”

 

“The presenters were bringing a very in-house perspective and were approaching problems from a non-conventional direction.”

 

“Better than any of the recent ‘big’ IP conferences I have attended.”

 

“The speakers did an excellent job of providing practical advice, with detailed examples.”

 

“Probably the best IP conference I have been to.”

 

“It was invaluable!”

Of course, there are some learnings as well with this first-time event format, the most important being that 30 minutes are too short for a panel with a broad topic, great speakers and an engaged audience. There will certainly be a next time to incorporate the suggestions for improvements we have received.

A big Thank You from the IPfolio team to all those who participated and made it great, and to the Silicon Valley Innovation Center for hosting us. It has been our honor to facilitate this dialog.

Why It’s Time for Legal to Embrace the Cloud – Part I

The Era of Cloud Computing

The Internet has clearly been the primary driving force in software evolution for the past decade. Cloud computing is one of the most visible results. Due to the rapid pace of hosting, availability and security innovation, adoption of cloud computing is frankly booming. In fact, it would be difficult to argue that cloud computing hasn’t been one of the biggest changes in both personal and business computing since the World Wide Web started its path to ubiquity in the mid-90s.

Adjectives like nimble, flexible, accessible, dependable, scalable, easy-to-use, and, of course, cost-effective are often used – and not just by vendors’ marketing departments – to characterize the post-deployment experience. The cloud has enabled companies willing to adopt SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offerings to outsource increasingly critical parts of their IT infrastructure. This choice frees up oft-limited IT resources for innovation, while enabling them to leverage core competencies. The net result is more attention on what they do best.

It Began with Consumers

Many consider the growth of the consumer cloud, driven by Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and others, as catalysts for the awareness, acceptance and adoption of business-oriented cloud options. As the consumer cloud has boomed, the concerns of many management and technical staff, in particular, have dissipated amidst the rising adoption inside large corporations of SaaS-centric vendors like Salesforce, Evernote, Atlassian, and ZenDesk.

Cloud Traction Within the Enterprise

With cloud offerings having crossed the threshold for adoption across the enterprise, here are some of the areas, formerly fiefdoms of on-premise software, where the cloud has made inroads; HR, Sales, Marketing, Operations (areas such as order and inventory management), Finance (from payroll outsourcing to easier regulatory compliance), as well as Legal applications (e.g. contract automation, enterprise risk management, and IP management).

IT departments have embraced the cloud for multiple reasons: from driving efficiency, productivity, and growth, to improving employee experience and ensuring post-disaster recovery. Additionally, any department using remote staff or whose staff is mobile and frequently out of the office is a good prospect.

Not everyone is convinced, though. Sometimes a little FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) take hold.

Don’t Believe The FUD: Cloud Computing Myths

A pro-cloud argument would be incomplete without busting some of the myths that prevent people from taking a close look and improving their business processes. While satisfying your availability, scalability, data security, and user acclimation concerns is logical, don’t let assumptions about them prevent you from even asking questions. Here are some of the myths.

Availability and Uptime

One of the most common concerns, it’s obvious to both users and providers. If you can’t access the application, you’re stuck. SaaS vendors invest a huge amount of resources to ensure that you can reach their applications reliably and consistently because their entire business model depends on it. The result is that unplanned downtime is a rare occurrence for enterprise-worthy applications that typically deliver availability rates exceeding 99.9%.

The Learning Curve

Whenever a company adopts a new technology or application, the learning curve can be steep and productivity impacted. SaaS can be easily rolled out progressively to prevent long period of inertia as employees struggle to become productive. Upgrades to most SaaS applications are frequent and iterative, which prevents productivity losses when massive upgrades radically change an application UI or UX. Who hasn’t experienced this in the past?

Scalability

Adding new users, offices, suppliers and customers shouldn’t be an impediment to growth.  When you’re researching software vendors, including SaaS options, ask about how they handle growth – primarily yours, not theirs. A key reason why the cloud handles scalability well is that there is a common, cost-effective infrastructure in which the individual companies and users benefit from the investment in an entire platform and application. SaaS revenue models are frequently based on the number of user accounts, so ensuring that customers can grow their user accounts is a requirement for any SaaS vendor to be successful.

Data Security

The data security issue is similar to availability – it’s a fundamental requirement without which a SaaS vendor will shut its doors. Vendors must adhere to a plethora of industry best practices to grow. They consequently invest a lot in security people, processes and technology to protect their servers and data paths.

Stability

Stability, the likelihood that a vendor will be in business next month or next year, and able to service its customer base, is something you need to investigate. It shouldn’t imperil any SaaS implementation plans unless the vendor fails the same due diligence you would pursue with any vendor. This means researching non-trivial issues such as financial strength, market leadership and traction, history of innovation and customer successes, as well as some of the issues listed earlier, like stability and security history.

Generally speaking, the SaaS model provides a better foundation for a vendor’s long-term stability than the traditional software licensing model. In the traditional model, the vendor receives a significant amount of money upfront for the software license, and only a relatively small ongoing maintenance fee for providing customer support and software updates. When sales of new licenses slow, such as in an economic downturn, the vendor can become financially challenged. The recurring revenue model of SaaS provides more stability, as well as more incentive for the vendor to stay invested into the customers’ success.

Ready to bust these cloud myths? Do your research. Organize what you learn. Get serious about researching how the cloud can help your Legal/IP department increase efficiency and productivity. How you could finally abandon that unloved docketing system that you have been stuck with since the 1990’s and gain more independence from your corporate IT department, all while lowering your total cost of ownership.

We’ll tackle the specific benefits of managing your IP assets in the cloud in Part Two of this post.

10 Patents that Launched Billion-Dollar Empires

To pivot or not to pivot. That’s the question hundreds of technology startups ponder when their original vision fails to take flight. For some, it’s a successful move. Consider Pinterest, which launched in 2009 as a mobile shopping app called Tote, or Groupon, which began life in 2007 to promote consumer activism before morphing into a wildly successful daily deals site.

Other startups remain true to the original vision of the founders. By analyzing their first patent filings, it’s easy to see which ones have remained committed to plans likely first sketched on a whiteboard in a spare bedroom. In many cases, these “seminal patents” closely describe what the company stands for today.

Here are the first patents granted to ten of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. Fledgling startups when they first filed to protect their intellectual property, they’ve since created billion-dollar businesses around the seminal inventions detailed below. Most of them have gone on to build out robust patent portfolios, and several are using IPfolio to manage those today.

1. Dropbox: Network folder synchronization

Filed in August 2010 by Dropbox co-founders and MIT alums Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, this patent details how multiple clients can share and synchronize folders and their contents across a network. Version control ensures everyone can access the latest iteration of a file. If you’ve ever used Dropbox, you know this is a core part of why online file sharing and access became so popular so quickly.

2. FireEye: System and method of detecting computer worms

Former Sun Microsystems engineer Ashar Aziz founded security startup FireEye in 2004. His vision was first detailed in this March 2005 patent. His method of identifying and responding to a specific network security risk category evolved into the company’s main product line, the FireEye Malware Protection System. A massively successful IPO on NASDAQ followed in 2013.

3. Zynga: Asynchronous challenge gaming

Zynga VP Andrew Busey and software engineer Christian Primozich filed this patent in November 2008 to protect Zynga’s nascent social gaming plans. The method described how individual characters and character teams could challenge others based on characteristics such as abilities, powers, defenses and performance levels. While Zynga’s vertiginous growth has levelled off, the brand remains synonymous with social and casual gaming on mobile and desktop.

4. Square: Systems and methods for decoding card swipe signals

Square certainly had its IP management strategy devised early on; it filed its first patent and a dozen others on the same day. This patent, which cited founding engineer Sam Wen as inventor, was filed in October 2010. It details exactly what anyone who has visited an arts and craft festival in recent years knows well – swiping a credit card on a mobile phone is an incredibly easy way to buy and sell anything. It’s also a great way to create a multi-billion-dollar valuation.

5. Facebook: Dynamically generating a privacy summary

Interestingly, this isn’t the first patent granted to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, though it was the first that he filed. Six years passed before he and co-inventor Chris Kelly, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, received formal approval of their invention in July 2012. It addresses privacy settings, and systems and methods to dynamically generate a privacy summary based on an individual’s privacy setting selections.

6. Theranos: Medical device for analyte monitoring and drug delivery

Few people beyond the medical research industry and Silicon Valley venture capital circles had heard of Elizabeth Holmes before she vaulted into the media spotlight in 2014 as the youngest self-made female billionaire on the Forbes 400 list. This application filed in August 2005 was her first. Based on a vision of rapid medical diagnosis and treatment, the method is a wearable patch to help administer drugs, monitor patients’ variables in the blood, while adjusting the dosage as needed. Many other patent applications – Holmes is listed as a co-inventor on over 100 – have followed, including one in 2007, Real-time detection of influenza virus. Considering that the World Health Organization estimates an annual influenza death toll worldwide of between 250 000 to 500 000, that could be a lucrative patent. Not surprisingly, Theranos’ valuation now exceeds $10B.

7. SolarCity: Methods for financing renewable energy systems

The home solar industry had been in existence of decades when VP of Strategy David Arfin unveiled an innovation (March 2008 patent filing) that was recognized in 2009 by Scientific America as one of twenty world-changing ideas to build a cleaner, healthier and smarter world. The SolarLease® is a business method using tax-deductible home loans to finance solar installations. Rampant growth using the lease process detailed in the patent made SolarCity one of the hottest brands in the resurgent renewable sector in the USA.

8. GoPro: Harness system for attaching camera to user

GoPro founder and CEO Nicholas Woodman’s vision has always centered on enabling people to record the fun part of life. His first patent, filed in February of 2004, detailed a harness to attach a camera safely to your body so it wouldn’t dislodge while surfing, rock climbing, dancing, kiteboarding or doing anything else. GoPro’s growth soared starting in 2009 upon the release of its own line of affordable video cameras, and the brand has become synonymous with recording life’s dynamic moments.

9. Google: Method for node ranking in a linked database

This is Google’s famous PageRank patent. Larry Page’s invention valued a webpage based on how many other pages linked to it. Filed in January 1998, the approach provided a significant improvement in the quality of search results, a key factor in Google’s rise as the dominant search engine. Interestingly, the original assignee was Stanford University, which received 1.8 million shares of Google stock in exchange for a long-term license. When your company name becomes a verb, you know the IP behind the activity is pretty valuable, and worth protecting.

10. Apple: Microcomputer for use with video display

Decades before Apple expanded into mobile communication, music distribution and timepieces, it was synonymous with digital design. Steve Jobs’ less well-known co-founder Steve Wozniak invented a method for displaying color and high resolution graphics using a standard cathode ray tube, which this April 1977 filing described.

Protecting The Next Big Thing

Silicon Valley is all about innovation, and IP management is a vital part of ensuring that inventions are protected. As this list shows, many of the Valley’s biggest names are still following the innovation vision detailed in their first patent filings.

At IPfolio, we have been been fortunate to grow up witnessing the success of these companies, and we are looking forward to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs manage and protect their creativity.

From Startup to Established Player in 30 Months

It’s been quite a journey.

Just two years ago, IPfolio was in its early startup days. We were getting our very first customers up and running at a pace of one per month. Doubters argued that the world did not need another IP docketing tool.

But building another docketing tool was never our intention. Against the conventional wisdom of our industry, we made two key assumptions in creating IPfolio:

1. The vast majority of all corporate IP groups around the world relies on outside law firms for their prosecution, and therefore does not need a traditional docketing system. What they need is a flexible tool for organizing and managing their IP-related information and activities, not thousands of country laws.

2. By building on a cloud platform (PaaS, Platform-as-a-Service), we can deliver a better product at a more attractive price than even the biggest players in our industry with their decades of experience, substantial resources, and practice of cross-subsidizing their software units to lock customers in with their lucrative service businesses.

These were big bets, but today everything indicates that we hit the mark with both of them. In the global innovation hotspot that is the San Francisco Bay Area, the hottest new technology companies are turning to IPfolio in droves as they look for the right tools to support their ambitious IP programs.

Outside our home territory, our customer base is growing rapidly in all parts of the world, particularly across North America and Europe. IPfolio has become the tool of choice not only for innovative startups, but for forward-looking IP organizations in companies of all sizes. Today, our largest customer is a member of the U.S. Fortune 20.

We have managed to attract top talent with decades of industry experience to our growing team, as well as significant investment to grow our business, and we receive praise from customers around the globe.

Our new website reflects how IPfolio has evolved from an entry-level offering to an established player that addresses a broad market. We have grown out of our startup days, but the journey has just begun.

Stay tuned!