What is the implementation of an IP management standard all about? It is mainly about the implementation and improvement of processes. Therefore, standards provide guidelines, which processes should be implemented in a company. They do not specify how it has to be done exactly in every case, because each company is unique and the implementation needs to be adapted to the concrete circumstances of the individual company. Many companies actually already have implemented most processes required be the standards and only slight modifications are required.
In practice the most important IP management process are building up on each other and are mutually dependent. Typically, the first step is to create an IP strategy, which defines what the company should achieve with IP. Then it create according to the strategy the fitting IP, administers it, manages the risks, enforces the IP, defends against IP related threats, deals with IP transaction and documents and reports all IP related activities. Finally, a very important process, which is often overlooked is the IP awareness building process.
Why is the process of IP awareness building so important for the implementation of the standard? It is because processes are everywhere in a company and in many cases multiple departments are involved in it and need to interact. One can even require the information from another department to start a process, for example there needs to be an invention disclosure coming from R&D, before the patent department can take care of the patent prosecution process. Therefore, also the non-IP experts in the company need to know about specific IP related topics to ensure, that all processes run smoothly. The ignorance of non-IP experts could otherwise leave IP related opportunities missed or even create unnecessary IP risks.
In the end, more or less every person in a company needs to have some IP knowledge to understand, when an IP related process is triggered and which steps they need to take. Not everyone in a company can and needs to be an IP expert. The only knowledge required is about the few IP related topics, where the person is involved in. Those topics can be derived from the set of objectives that the company give their employees.
Once the objectives of each role in a company are understood, the very concrete tasks and with it processes can be determined for everyone. From here on the required IP competencies can be determined, which should be built up by the awareness building effort.
The list of concrete training modules is nevertheless not static and training can never be finally completed, because due to events like a company merger, a change of business model or changes in the market environment the needed IP competencies can always change. Therefore the competencies should be regularly reviewed.
After looking on what the standard requires regarding the implementation, the question arises how a standard implementation can be done practically and which tools might be used. An important aspect of building IP awareness and creating a lasting IP culture is that all company functions are reached and this can only be done by mandatory and role specific training for everyone. Also, for the improvement of the processes a documentation of the training efforts is vital. Therefore, an ideal solution is a digital content portal, which provides task specific courses for the different IP functions, documents the learning status and can easily be modified, if new IP needs arise and new IP competencies should be built.
This flexibility is also required by the IP management standards, because all processes are under repetitive review within the so called PDCA cycle. This means, that also the IP awareness campaigns can never be finished and a once taken course cannot substitute the continuous need to stay updated. So, instead of a fixed set of courses an infrastructure is needed to fulfill the training needs and document them.
The digital transformation and its consequences for IP management provide various examples how processes in a company need to be modified due to external changes and new IP competencies need to be built. For example due to the digital transformation, development teams are less often engineers and more often software developers. Those developers are often not aware that they made an invention and miss the opportunity to file an invention disclosure with negative effect to the company. On the other hand they often think, that they can just use open source software without thinking of IP implications and create unnecessary IP risks. And finally, also new competitors arise due to the digital transformation, e.g. from digital companies, which create completely new patent infringement risks, that classical manufacturing companies did not have before the introduction of smart products. In all those examples the training for specific company functions needs to be adapted accordingly and the old competencies are not sufficient anymore.
In the end, the question arises, who takes care of the practical implementation of the standard by the use of an awareness raising infrastructure. The first option is of course, that the IP department of the company, which wants to implement the standard, operates the learning infrastructure by itself. That way, it can train all company functions based on their needs in a binding way and check and document everyone’s learning progress to improve the processes in the company. The other option is that the infrastructure is operated by an IP law firm. Here, it can be use in two ways, either as an internal training tool, so that the law firm is standard compliant itself. This is important, because a standard compliant company needs to ensure, that everyone they are working with is also standard compliant, including IP law firms. Alternatively, the IP law firm can also use it to train SMEs and their company functions themselves. This is an attractive option for many SMEs, who do not have qualified IP managers inside the company and look for a law firm which operates as an outsourced IP department. Therefore they expect IP law firms to also conduct the necessary training and awareness building which is required by the standard.
How such a content portal can be operated by a law firm was also a topic at this year’s I3PM general assembly. You can watch the recording of the session below: