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South: Many companies have 'no formal strategy for intellectual property'

By Dan Teuton
26 September 2019

Leading intellectual property firm Mathys & Squire LLP, which has an office in Oxford, has surveyed in-house buyers of legal services among top UK and US corporates with turnovers ranging from £10 million to over £1 billion across a variety of sectors. The research aimed to investigate the importance of intellectual property (IP), the companies’ strategy for IP disputes and to understand the relative importance of specialist IP firms in the current market.

Despite the majority (76%) of large companies recognising the impact that understanding the value of their IP has on their commercial strategy, less than a quarter (24%) have created a formal IP strategy and only 23% have conducted a valuation of their IP assets.

Again, three quarters (74%) of companies with an IP strategy say it deals specifically with IP litigation threats and indeed, one third (32%) have a contingency budget for this.

Turning to IP litigation, over 80% of respondents found their recent experience to be successful which indicates both a pragmatic view and the fact that companies see IP litigation as part of a commercial process. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) was found to be gaining ground and has been used by 56% of respondents. 66% of companies found ADR to be successful in achieving their commercial goals.

The matter of choosing specialist IP litigation counsel led to some fascinating findings, with 83% of respondents placing importance on being represented by a technical specialist. This is reinforced by the fact that an overwhelming 87% of those using a specialist firm experienced a successful outcome in their most recent IP litigation. As might be expected given these figures, decision makers consider it more important to have a specialist IP firm that can handle IP strategy rather than have all legal matters handled by one firm.

One of the key trends that emerged from the survey is that brand identity and protection is seen as the most important factor in commercial success, which would include the protection of trade marks, technologies and designs.

In conclusion, there is a clear appreciation of the technical and strategic benefits of working with specialist IP firms. Decision makers in the UK and US are concerned about the prospect of being a claimant or defendant in IP litigation, however, whilst IP is commercially significant to over three-quarters, few (24%) have taken the time to create a formal IP strategy.

Commenting on the outcomes of the research, Mathys & Squire partner and head of IP litigation Margaret Arnott said: “The results of our research suggest that businesses with a more developed IP strategy generally have a better experience of litigation. It has also made clear that protection of brand is our respondents’ prime consideration for maintaining their success, so it makes sense to take strategic steps to assure the safety of their trade marks.

She added: “Looking at IP litigation, our research has revealed that niche, specialist IP firms with technical knowledge are growing in popularity among legal decision makers as the stranglehold of the ‘one stop shop’ firms loosens. This is telling of a savvy, contemporary outlook and more IP expertise in-house, and shows that decision makers prefer specialist expertise over ‘big-name’ purchasing when selecting IP advisers.

“While the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit is viewed as a threat by UK businesses, with competitor, economic and specific industry risks also looming large, our sense is that there is scope for paying more attention to the safeguarding of brands, technologies and designs as well as the commercialisation of IP if businesses are to be best prepared for possible future litigation threats.”

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