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How to Start and Grow an IP Law Practice

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How to Start and Grow an IP Law Practice

  1. 1. Nehal Madhani @AltLegalHQ HOW TO START AND GROW AN IP PRACTICE
  2. 2. AGENDA Intro to IP Setting up and expanding an IP law practice Ethical obligations and pitfalls in IP work Tools for IP lawyers
  3. 3. Nehal Madhani Founder & CEO Alt Legal @nehalm Nehal Madhani is the founder and CEO of Alt Legal, whose software makes it easy for law firms to create and docket IP filings. Before starting Alt Legal, Nehal practiced as an attorney at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. He is a Python/Django programmer. He is also a Codex fellow at Stanford Law School. Nehal has a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a Certificate in Business and Public Policy from the Wharton School of Business, and a B.A. from Northwestern.
  4. 4. INTRO TO IP
  5. 5. DEMAND FOR IP LEGAL SERVICES IS GROWING Source: BTIConsulting Group, • IP is a critical business asset that every business should protect. • Companies are being brought and sold just for their IP portfolios. • Nearly $2.7 billion is spent on IP litigation legal fees every year. • Surge in the number of small businesses and startups is driving an increase in the number of IP filings.
  6. 6. Sources: USPTO,; Kauffman Foundation StartupActivity National Trends2015 Trademark applications filed with the USPTO rose nearly 10% in 2015. In 2016, the USPTO has already received 13% more applications than last year. This is in part driven by the jump in the national rate of new entrepreneurs.
  7. 7. TRADEMARKS OVERVIEW • Scope: Protects word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. • Expiration: None as long as use and filing requirements are satisfied. • USPTO attorney requirements: Must be an attorneyin good standing in at least one US jurisdiction to prosecute trademark filings.
  8. 8. PATENTS OVERVIEW • Scope: Protects machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. • Expiration: 14 years for design patents; 20 years for utilityand plant patents. • USPTO attorney requirements: Must be admitted to patent bar to prosecute patents. A scientific or technical training is a prerequisite for the patent bar.
  9. 9. COPYRIGHT OVERVIEW • Scope: Protects works of authorship that have been tangibly expressed in a physical form (e.g., songs, books, movies, and works of art). • Expiration: Varies depending on the type of work and authorship (e.g., life of the author + 70 years or if it’s work for hire or anonymous, it’s shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation). • Attorney requirements: Must be an attorney in good standing in at least one US jurisdiction to prosecute copyright filings.
  12. 12. Identifying the scope of your practice Prosecution Filings Trademarks Copyrights Patents License Agreements Litigation Administrative Proceedings Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Patent Trial and Appeal Board Federal Court
  13. 13. Steps in prosecuting IP filings Protecting: Maintain IP rights through renewals and active monitoring Prosecuting: Monitor and update IP filing and deadlines Filing: File documents and forms with government IP office Assembly: Assess filing and prepare documents and government forms Intake: Gather client information and documents re IP rights
  14. 14. FIND YOUR NICHE • Like any practice, you should identify your niche within IP after determining the scope of your work in this field. • You can more effectively focus your limited resources. • You can quickly build expertise. • You can rapidly develop a client base and network.
  15. 15. HOW TO FIND A NICHE • Consider your interests and passions • Identify trends in your current client base and/or network • Assess your professional and personal strengths and weaknesses • Explore the competitive landscape
  16. 16. A STRONG IP NETWORK IS CRITICAL • IP law is a complex, global practice. • The right network allows you to serve clients as a “full-service IP firm.” • You can grow your practice through referrals.
  17. 17. BUILDING YOUR IP NETWORK • Social media (Check out our list of Twitter influencers here) • Read blogs and write your own. Popular ones include Likelihood of Confusion, TTABlog, Everything Trademarks, and IP Watchdog) • Become a member of the over 50 state and local IP bar associations • Join trade organizations: • International Trademark Association (INTA) • American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) • American Bar Association - Intellectual Property Law (ABA-IPL) • Copyright Society of the USA (CSUSA)
  18. 18. CASE STUDIES OF SUCCESSFUL IP PRACTICES • Background: Meet Rina. Rina is a former Big Law corporate attorney who set up her own legal practice a few years ago. She focuses largely on emerging companies and securities law. • IP work: Over the last couple years, her emerging companies clients have become mature companies and have sought trademark protection. • Results: Rina has prosecuted over 60 trademarks for her clients and netted nearly $50,000 in legal fees ($800/trademark). • Advice: Attend CLEs and IP conferences to learn the fundamentals and leverage close relationships with experienced IP lawyers to help you avoid mistakes.
  19. 19. OTHER WAYS TO GROW YOUR IP PRACTICE • Common strategies: Client networking, referrals from attorneys and clients, online content, and social media. • Unique strategies for IP law: • Filing IP isn’t once and done. This gives rise to new engagement opportunities with clients and prospective clients. • Use docketing software to alert you of new engagement points with clients and to maintain continuous contact. • Engage pro se applicants in accordance with applicable rules. Nearly 1/3 of filings are filed by pro se applicants, and many become subject to an oppositional proceeding or office action.
  21. 21. KEY RULES • Competence: “Competent representation requires the legal, scientific, and technical knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” 37 C.F.R. § 11.101. • Unauthorized practice of law: “A practitioner shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so.” 37 CFR § 11.505. • Candor towards tribunal: (a) Prohibitions against false statements/evidence; (b) disclosure of criminal behavior…and (d) disclosure of material facts to tribunal in ex parte proceedings. 37 CFR § 11.303.
  22. 22. ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR: MAKING FACTUAL ASSERTIONS • US trademark applications must be signed by a person that can legally bind the applicant or has first hand knowledge of the facts asserted in the application and authorityto act on behalf of the applicant, or a US attorney authorized to practice before the USPTO. • Attorneys who execute trademark applications on behalf of clients may become a fact witness and disqualified from representing the applicant if the application or registration is disputed. • You should email the application to your client to execute (despite the inconvenience) through TEAS. Source: BTIConsulting Group,
  23. 23. ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR: MAKING EXCESSIVELY BROAD ASSERTIONS • Medinol Ltd. v. Neuro Vasx Inc. (TTAB 2003). The mark "NeuroVasx" was granted for use in connection with "medical devices, namely, neurological stents and catheters." • A petitioner wanted the mark cancelled because it was not being used in connections with stents. Neuro Vasx attempted to amend their application to remove stents, which were included because of an oversight. • The court found fraud because Neuro Vasx knowingly made a false statement to the USPTO to obtain registration, which would not have been issued if the USPTO knew it was not being used for stents. • Fraud cannot be cured by the deletion of goods from the registrations.
  24. 24. MISSING DEADLINES: IN RE TACHNER • In re Tachner (USPTO D2012-30): The Office of Enrollment and Discipline brought an action against a solo patent attorney after he missed several filing deadlines for clients’ filings. • The attorneyrelied on an office manager and a manual docketing system. Through 2005, he docketed matters by recording dates in a notebook. After 2005, his office relied solely on a Word document that listed actions as single-line entries (no table and no calendar). • The attorneyadmitted to a pattern of neglect of management of his law firm, including reliance on an “unsound calendaring system for tracking deadlines.” • The attorneywas suspended for five years for violating several provisions the USPTO Code of Professional Responsibility.
  25. 25. MISSING DEADLINES: THE MEDICINES CO. V. FISH & NEAVE • In The Medicines Co. v. Fish & Neave, Medicines Co. sued Fish & Neave for missing a patent term extension (“PTE”) application deadline that jeopardized about 4.5 years of market exclusivity ($2 billion in sales). • PTE applications allow applicants to extend the life of a patent for certain delays beyond the applicant’s control. Here, it was the time MDCO spent seeking FDA approval of their drug. Fish & Neave was to submit a PTE application within 60 days of the FDA approving the drug. • Ultimately, after a protracted, decade-long legal and legislative battle and nearly $20 million lobbying Congress, MDCO was able to reverse the docketing and patent filing errors and restore the exclusivity period. Ropes & Gray Settles, Patent Bill Viewedas BailoutforaLaw Firm,
  27. 27. TOOLS FOR IP LAWYERS • Malpractice Insurance • Docketing System • Practice Management • Client Intake
  28. 28. MALPRACTICE INSURANCE • IP malpractice insurance is a must if you are going to do any kind of IP filing (even trademarks). • Typically, it’s more expensive than other practice areas given the high stakes of IP and the liabilities associated with missed deadlines. • Explore discounts that may be available through trade organizations (e.g., National Association of Patent Practitioners). • Consider policy limits, scope of coverage, retroactive dates, and expiration dates in selecting a provider.
  29. 29. DOCKETING SYSTEM • Timely filings for office actions, renewals, revivals, and objections are essential to protect your clients’ IP rights. • Complexity increases exponentiallyas you grow your IP practice. • Key factors in selecting an IP docketing system • Scope of your practice (e.g., trademarks or patents, domestic or international, litigation or prosecution) • Security • Ease of use • Automation • Calendaring support
  30. 30. COLLECTING IP INFORMATION CAN BE A TIME-CONSUMING PROCESS. Initial inquiry Assess IP needs Collect specific information Review client intake Follow-ups with client
  31. 31. BEST PRACTICES FOR IP INTAKE • Present your client with questions that are easy to understand or not overly technical to solicit accurate and complete answers. • Leverage electronic forms to collect client information in the first instance to speed up the process for both you and your client. • Keep records of the information that your client provided to you.
  32. 32. PRACTICE MANAGEMENT • IP practice (like other practices involving government filings and processes) can be administrative at times. • Practice management software will help you manage your contacts, organize your matters and documents, and get paid faster. • Reflect on your workflow to identify any administrative bottlenecks by considering which elements are repetitive and don’t require any subjective assessments.
  33. 33. 10% off for attendees! Sign up at Then email And we’ll apply a 10% discount to your first three months.
  35. 35. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES • USPTO: Trademark Basics • INTA: Trademark Basics • USPTO: Patent Basics • Copyright Office: Copyright Basics • Lawline CLEs • Solo Practice University CLEs • Talks on Law CLEs