23 Jan
2019

Future-proofing your trademark operations: time to evolve or lose relevance

  • Three new reports reveal predictions about the future of the IP industry
  • They include the need for firms to strongly invest in technology to stay ahead
  • Corporate counsel will need to embrace new skills, include becoming data experts

There is probably no role in the IP world that is likely to change as much in the next decade as that of the in-house trademark counsel – with the knock-on that law firm and non-legal service provider offerings and practices will need to adapt or face losing ground, and revenue, to competitors.

With that in mind, we recently conducted a series of in-depth interviews with a panel of senior IP thought leaders, and their prediction for the future was clear: for corporate professionals, business demands, cost pressures and technology developments will remove or simplify many of the tasks undertaken today by trademark departments. As a result, trademark professionals – who have already begun to feel the pressures of tighter budgets and the effect of automation on certain tasks – will need to adapt to new commercial realities and evolve their roles in a bid to remain relevant to their organisations.

This evolution will inevitably impact other parts of the trademark ecosystem. Changing client needs will combine with technological advancements, the emergence of new competitors, harmonisation and the development of new business models to create a perfect storm of pressure on law firm practitioners. Failure to respond to these threats could result in loss of livelihood. Similar pressures will come to bear in the increasingly competitive non-legal trademark service providers sector – not least as law firms increasingly encroach on their turf.

Corporate counsel have to become data experts

Over the next decade, it is predicted that corporate trademark departments will become leaner, faster, more tech-focused and more diverse. Crucially, the skillset they draw on will diversify – with fewer lawyers and more consultants, business analysts and technologists. In such an environment:

  • Trademark departments are ripe for procedural simplification and the implementation of new technologies
  • Managing data, making it accessible and identifying patterns will be key for all IP professionals
  • Practitioners must look beyond the legal department to solve problems

Additionally, the client-law firm relationship will change considerably in the next decade.

Firms will need to invest

Like the in-house clients, law firm practitioners will need to become more agile, more comfortable with using technology and different types of communication, and more creative in how they work in a bid to stay relevant. Investment in technology will also be required, in a bid to meet changing client needs. But they will have to achieve all of this while continuing to meet the expectations and targets set by their firms, and that may become increasingly difficult, particularly in large corporate practices.

Based on in-depth interviews with a panel of IP experts, we predict:

  • Firms will have to transform the way they communicate with clients, with an emphasis on transparency, new tools and enhanced services
  • Automation will replace many manual tasks, and firms will need to invest in technology, including AI
  • Increasingly, service providers will be competing with law firms, and the latter will have to decide when to cooperate and when to compete

The service provider as business adviser

With law firms and corporate in-house departments predicted to increasingly compete with service providers, this will push the latter to stay ahead of the curve and deliver systems and services that keep them truly relevant and indispensable. As such:

  • Providing raw data will become increasingly unattractive and service providers will find themselves in tension with both trademark attorneys and IP offices when it comes to utilising data
  • Service providers will have to respond imaginatively as competition increases and prices come down
  • IP service providers will become more like business advisers

These challenges are not unsurmountable – and there are clear opportunities to revolutionise customer-relationship management and HR systems in the IP industry. Ultimately, it is about embracing, and preparing for, the future now in a bid to stay one step ahead.

 

The above article contains excerpts and predictions from three reports commissioned by IAM and WTR and based on extensive interviews with senior thought leaders across the IP space. Written by James Nurton, the former editor of Managing Intellectual Property, each report contains predictions for the future of the trademark industry, insight into how to future proof operations and action points designed to ensure that the future is embraced now. The full reports – The Future of In-house Trademark Departments, The Future of Trademark Law Practices and The Future of Trademark Service Providers – are available for purchase here.

Trevor Little

Editor

tlittle@GlobeBMG.com