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IP On The Org Chart Today: An Overview

Association of Patent Law Firms & Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Symposium: “Intellectual Property Developments from the Inside Out”
September 26, 2007

The Intellectual Property Law Department
Intellectual Property Counsel: Managing the Clients

Traditionally, the IP department has been part of the law department that operated in the background of the company. Its responsibility was to obtain patents and protect those patents from infringement. Patent counsel managed the department operations and staff, as well as overseeing outside counsel, on matters relating to searching prior art, invention disclosure, prosecution, litigation and basic licensing. Patent counsel generally reported to general corporate counsel, although in some instances he/she had a direct or dotted line relationship with general counsel in the specific businesses.

Over the years, companies developed their own unique variations on IP management structure and these dictated reporting lines and lines of communication. Nonetheless, the role of IP counsel, as well as outside counsel, was firmly grounded in the patent lawyer’s legal knowledge, technical drafting and advocacy skills.

Today, IP is taking on greater importance in corporations as the purpose and objectives of IP have been redefined as a direct source of shareholder value. As a result, IP counsel is expected to be strategist and business advisor, who must be a skilled leader and corporate team player in addition to being a patent law expert. IP management now requires balancing the legal strategies and tactics with potential business consequences that include both revenue opportunities and risk management.

The following developments of recent years are noteworthy to understand the changes in positioning of IP on the org chart and the impact on IP counsel:

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