How does a company synonymous with a market that has peaked continue to grow? Identify emerging opportunities or create new categories, of course. An R&D program to create inventions and an IP program to protect them are requirements.
One of Logitech's current hot sellers: the Duo-To-Go iPad case and keyboard (image source: Logitech website)
Kevin McLintock joined Logitech in May 2011 as Director of Worldwide IP to ensure it would continue to thrive, despite the decline in the computer mice and keyboard categories. A year later, his group became IPfolio's very first customer.
On last week's blog, Kevin discussed how he developed an IP strategy and program to support Logitech’s operations in emerging categories such as portable music, video gaming and video conferencing. In Part Two, he discusses how he uses IPfolio to execute the strategy.
Last week, you described the long process of reaching consensus and finalizing an IP strategy. How did this translate into execution in the early days?
One of the first things we did was to consolidate individual patent budgets from multiple business groups into one master budget. We created priorities across the entire company and started evaluating inventions and disclosures, and ideas against overall strategic value and priorities. Filing decisions were the result of the big picture rather than narrow business group-specific decisions.
What’s the current composition of Logitech’s IP department?
Until now, I’ve handled IP strategy and patent prosecution while a colleague has focussed on litigation. We’re adding two new attorneys to expand our capabilities in all three.
Before talking technology, how do you ensure that IP is visible in the company?
I travel a lot. We have a big R&D center in Switzerland that does R&D for probably half of our product lines. I visit every quarter to meet with the team there. My European trips also include a visit to our R&D center in Cork, Ireland. Our music group’s engineering team is in Portland. I visit them quarterly, as well. We have some manufacturing teams in Asia. I usually coordinate with them remotely because most of the manufacturing leadership is either in Newark, CA or visits often enough.
What’s the backstory before you became one of IPfolio’s first customers in late-2011?
We do all of our drafting outside. In 2011, we didn’t have any tools for directly managing document flow with outside attorneys. We had tried to develop an in-house tool to help with tracking but it was incredibly labor intensive. There was way too much copy and pasting, and I was reliant on having budget for a paralegal team to do it.
Did you create a needs analysis or project spec?
We needed process automation, visibility into the process, and access to the information inside it. The wish list was a tool that would allow us to be - in a very hands-off perspective - able to quickly display our portfolio status, understand its content, and collaborate with outside counsel on every issue we needed to.
We had other expectations, as well. Getting consensus and buy-in from people throughout an organization is a key element to raising the visibility and importance of IP. High on the list was the ability to create visuals and reports on our portfolio status, trends, and progress, then share them with my non-IP colleagues in the legal group, and business groups and teams. We also wanted to incentivize and recognize innovation. I wanted to formalize and manage our Inventor Awards program, and knew the right tool would be very helpful in automating it.
Have you been able to automate your IP system as you just described?
IPfolio has been exactly what I hoped it would be. I don't need more features right now; everything that I wanted IPfolio to be able to do, it delivers. It gives me instant access to all our patent matters, wherever I am. I have dashboards for high-level overview, and by pulling up a single record, I can see the full file history and understand what has been happening at the detail level.
There are some areas where we’re not as far along as I would like. Some elements of our Inventors Awards program, for example, still need tweaking. What we do right now is to create tags and categories that serve as flags to indicate the payment status of each application. The additional changes we’d like to make are more of an implementation issue on our end, than missing functionality.
How does IPfolio fit into your day-to-day activities?
For most of 2014, I had someone in Switzerland helping me with European patent activities. We used IPfolio to collaborate on document matters. It was a very efficient way to collaborate with her. Currently, I’m the only user. I receive a huge amount of email every day, hundreds of messages from inside and outside the company. Many of them are outside counsel updates on office actions or similar activities.
IPfolio has some very helpful routing features to automatically update records. I can create a new record associated with a unique ID. Whenever our outside law firms (or anyone else) wants to update the record, they add the ID to the email subject line. This automation works flawlessly unless there are typos in the subject line or someone sends emails into the system before I’ve created a record. Getting it right is a bit of an adjustment for some law firms, but they generally do after a short while, and as a result I have current records without ever having to worry about filing documents that I receive into the right place.
Overall, where do you find value in IPfolio?
Logitech is a $2 Billion dollar company. Our patent prosecution and IP strategy team is very small so anything that saves time and improves outcomes is valuable. IPfolio has done that. It’s delivered a lot of benefit to us; from visibility and transparency, to process and task automation.
Many thanks to Kevin for spending the time with us. If it wasn’t abundantly clear, he’s a really busy guy. When he’s not managing IP, he manages three young children with his spouse. He’s not sure which is more challenging.