In the legal world, outcomes often hinge on ultra specific details that might go unnoticed to the lay person. For that reason, working with law firms and vendors who have experience specific to your case is often preferable to working with those that don’t. Such is the case with intellectual property.
IP law is not for the faint of heart. In addition to the same strong foundation of legal knowledge required of all lawyers, the best intellectual property attorneys usually need expertise in science and technology, or any other areas where they’re likely to litigate.
For all those same reasons, intellectual property lawyers and general counsel for companies where IP litigation is inevitable should look for vendors with IP-specific experience. Here are some of the questions such people should be asking potential legal tech and eDiscovery vendors before giving them an IP case.
1. Can this vendor handle my data types?
Some data types show up over and over again regardless the case: Microsoft Word docs and Excel sheets; PDFs; jpegs. For that reason, you can probably count on any eDiscovery provider worth their salt to navigate these data types without blinking an eye.
Intellectual property cases are usually different. Crucial evidence often lies in design programs such as Solid Works, Catia, AutoCAD, Fusion360 and more. Maybe your intellectual property is thousands upon thousands of lines of computer code written in multiple programming languages. Either way, you have data outside the basic .doc and .pdf file types.
Somehow, you’re going to have to translate those off-the-beaten-path file types into user-friendly, reviewable files without wonky formatting discrepancies. Since these alternative file formats are often much larger than a typical word document, you’ll also need processing power that can handle larger files in a timely manner. Some service providers that could handle .pdfs in their sleep might still get tripped up by these more niche types of data.
Before you hire anyone to help you with a patent case, make sure they know exactly what kinds of data you have. Have they worked with those data types before? What’s their game plan? You deserve to know.
2. Does this vendor understand IP at all levels of jurisdiction?
Compared to some areas of law, IP features wider discrepancies between international, federal, state, and local policies and precedents. How do you make sure that U.S. patent will still protect you when you sell that product in Europe? Will that judge in West Texas rule differently than that other judge in Delaware? If you register that trademark in New York but someone already has a similar trademark in California, does it matter?
There aren’t easy answers to any of these questions, and no good IP-focused vendor would claim there are. A good service provider, just like a good lawyer, knows how much outcomes depend on where the case is happening. There are great vendors located all over the globe, so you shouldn’t necessarily pick someone just because they’re near your business; what does matter is where your vendor’s caseload comes from. A California-based provider whose client base is 99% California-based companies might not be the best partner for your lawsuit in Texas.
A provider that has tried cases all over the world, and specifically one that’s tried cases in the jurisdiction where you’re facing litigation, will likely prove more suitable. The more jurisdictions they understand, they better they are able to put you in a good position for future litigations, which brings me to my next point.
3. Is this someone I can work with long term?
If you’re managing your intellectual property cases well, each one should be a little bit easier than the last. That’s because a lot of the data you need to win your current case is likely the same data you needed to win the last case. If you’re doing it right, your IP defense will get stronger and stronger each time. Maintain that consistency long enough, and you’ll probably see an overall reduction in cases. After all, who wants to sue some that keeps winning over and over again?
For that reason, your intellectual property strategy should always be bigger than one particular case. If it isn’t, that might lead you to a six-figure settlement that makes perfect sense right now, but ultimately leads to 10 more six-figure settlements over the next few years.
If you invest that money in building a strong case and maintaining that data so you can easily recall it when the next case comes along, that legal spend will pay dividends later. Settling cases usually doesn’t.
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