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Have You Defined Your Legal Strategy?

August 28th, 2009

            If there’s one thing a CFO hates, it’s surprises. Whether on the revenue, expense, or legal front, we do everything we can on a daily basis to mitigate or eliminate this risk. One of the biggest areas for risk, based on the potential cost impact, are lengthy and costly legal battles. I’ve had to deal with these in detail at the last two companies I’ve been with, from both the Plaintiff and Defendant sides of the table. It’s not only costly, but a complete distraction from running your everyday business.

            I’m not going to spend any time discussing past situations since this would only provide an insight into strategies or my preferred approach. I won’t make it that easy for others. What I have been able to see in past actions is that there are suits that have a definitive merit and the other party needs to cease their actions, or there are those that are more opportunistic and the other party sees the easy buck. The latter are those that are completely infuriating. However, regardless of the legitimacy, you need to ask if your company is taking the necessary steps to mitigate the risk and proactively manage your IP portfolio and integrate your legal team (whether internal or external) into business development on a regular basis. Until you take this step, you’re primarily going to be working in a reactionary state. If you work proactively, then at least when the surprises happen you’re much more prepared to deal with it.

            If we’re to assume the role as the “Regulator of Risk”, then incorporating your legal team in your business development is really no different than paying an annual insurance policy. While there are insurance policies for corporate IP matters, these are reactionary and will not offer you assistance in avoiding unnecessary skirmishes. It’s too exhausting a topic to start covering major points, but where do you stand on….

§  Ensuring your corporate name & logo is protected across major global markets?

§  Ensuring that employees are not utilizing unauthorized software internally or externally?

§  Ensuring that brand or model names are not infringing?

§  Ensuring that your brand or model names have been appropriate registered, even if only used for a single season?

§  Ensuring that specific technologies or software has specific protocols for use and/or distribution?

§  Ensuring that there are protocols in place to assess the creative sources of new product launches?

            Again, these points don’t even scratch the surface, but unless you take a proactive approach to this area you might very well find yourself in a costly legal battle. Cover your bases, keep the communication constant, constantly involve yourself in all areas of the business, and you’ll have a higher knowledge and confidence level when these “surprises” hit.

 

Thanks for Reading. . . .

 

Jeffrey Ishmael

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