Canada’s Intellectual Property Firm

Managing patent portfolios during tough economic times

Authored byBrigide Mattar

There is no denying that we are going through challenging economic times. Managers are increasingly asked to do more with less: less people, less time, and less money. Intellectual property (IP) budgets are not immune to this reality. Now, more than ever, it is important to ensure that the most is made of every dollar spent. When managing your patent portfolio with reduced resources, consider taking the following measures.

Assess and understand the assets you have. To manage your patent assets effectively, it is important to understand the rights you have and how they support your company’s business. Use this economic downturn as an opportunity to go through your patent portfolio and classify each patent asset as being:

  • Relevant to current or future business activities,
  • Not relevant to current or future business activities but valuable for other reasons (see below), or
  • Not relevant and of little or no value.

Keep in mind that the value of a patent asset is not static. Patents that were once valuable can become obsolete due to a change in technology or in a company’s business focus. Once identified, patent assets that are no longer relevant to current or future business activities can be dealt with appropriately.

Drop underperforming assets. Maintaining patent assets costs money (e.g., examination fees, maintenance fees, etc.). In some cases, these fees can amount to thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars annually. Managers are often reluctant to allow patent assets to lapse, but this reluctance should be questioned: by maintaining obsolete patent assets, are resources that could be used for other opportunities being wasted? Unless a patent asset is protecting market share or has the potential to be sold, licensed, or otherwise leveraged, it might not be worth keeping.

Determine if patent assets can become a potential source of revenue. Just because a patent asset is not directly relevant to your company’s business activities does not mean that it doesn’t have value for others. It is often said that one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. In this spirit, determine if any of your patent assets can be sold, licensed, or donated to third parties. This can turn an asset that was expensive to maintain into a source of revenue for your company.

Maintain a long term strategic vision. When IP budgets are trimmed, the knee-jerk reaction is often to stop filing new patent applications in the hope of cutting costs. Unfortunately, this may be short sighted. Patent assets are often a long term investment. Patents having only a minimal value today may become valuable in the future once the patented technology becomes commercially successful. Missing opportunities to obtain patents that could be valuable in the long-term simply to avoid incurring costs in the short-term is not advisable. Obviously, with reduced resources, the decision as to which technology to protect will have to be considered more carefully, but not protecting a technology at all should not be the preferred option. Economic slumps do not last forever, so it is important to keep in mind that patent assets obtained now could impact your company’s future value and success.


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