Thursday, August 2, 2012

Learning About Patents or Watching the Olympics?

I'm taking a break from the Olympics and my new love affair with John Orozco (he reminds me of my oldest, so I'm considering formally adopting him...)  I'm in a exciting Patent Litigation CLE in Dallas.  I'm expecting to be riveted to each and every word. Just in case you aren't picking up on it, that should be read with a little bit of sarcasm.  If you happen to be in the room, stop by and say hi - I'm in the back row.

While I have tons of respect for my colleagues who practice patent law, it's one area that I've only touched from a managing outside counsel point of view.  I really have no interest in patent law on a personal level.  However, patents and patent litigation are becoming more important for both offense and defense reasons for tech companies.  Because of that, I'm taking this opportunity to  become more familiar with the nuances of patent litigation.

Which is something that all in house counsel should do.  Whether or not you have pending litigation or trolls knocking on your door, knowing the basics of complex areas like patent law and patent litigation is an absolute requirement for small department in house counsel.  Even if your team is segregated by functionality, you may be the only one in the office when a troll sends a demand letter to your company's customer.  Or, worst case scenario, your company gets named in a patent infringement suit and it suddenly becomes all hands on deck for bet-the-company litigation.  Knowing the basics will give you the information you need to be able to make the quick calls, and will better enable you to manage outside counsel.  If you know nothing about patent litigation, then how can you evaluate your outside counsel's opinion to file a Bilsky motion or recommendation to file for a declaratory judgment in advance of the patent owner filing in their choice of forum?  Either option could cost several hundred thousand dollars in outside counsel fees.  Are you ready to gamble that much without any basis for evaluating the recommendation?

So as much as I'd much rather be watching Phelps take on Lochte today, I'll be learning about patent litigation.  Maybe next year, I'll see more of my in house brethren here instead of a sea of firm lawyers.

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