Legal Digital Transformation – Lesson #3: Successful Digital Transformation Depends on Excellent Interoperability of All IP Systems

Imagine for a moment you are a bank owner looking for new software to support your international banking customers. Could you even consider for a moment buying software that wasn’t interoperable with the international banking network? Would you consider buying this software if the vendor insisted any outsourced back-office operations had to be done using the vendor’s off-shore team? Of course you couldn’t and wouldn’t. Yet, this is where the IP industry finds itself in 2021 – many large installations of legacy IP management systems are not interoperable with the online IP ecosystem such as patent offices around the world, law firm IP systems, and cloud services. Even worse, some existing vendors who regard themselves as leaders in the industry not only don’t offer serviceable APIs for interoperability, these vendors refuse to allow their customers to connect their systems to cloud services provided by what they regard as competitors.

Anyone who works in the IP industry knows the IP industry requires the daily exchange of large quantities of IP data between the various entities that work in the ecosystem. These exchanges are between patent offices and legal representatives, and between corporate law departments and their law firms, between law departments and outsourced docketing or paralegal services, and between annuity payment services and patent owners.

The lack of interoperability of the various IP management and processing systems in this ecosystem has now become a huge barrier to the digital transformation of the industry. The cost of manually moving data between systems, such as between an automated docketing service and an IP management system, or from an e-mail sent by a corporate law department into a law firm IP management system, now accounts for a large percentage of the cost of these transactions where the rest of the transaction can be automated.

Take for example the cloud-based autonomous docketing services provided by Black Hills IP. Thousands of docketing decisions can now be made in the matter of seconds or minutes. Where interoperability is provided by the target IP system, the docketing transactions can be automatically loaded at lightning speeds. The result is total digital transformation of this IP function, with many advantages including order of magnitude increases in accuracy and speed, and also the benefit of having IP transaction data structured in a “digital transformation” friendly form, allowing more automation downstream like automated reporting.

On the other hand, where interoperability is not supported, and data entry must be done manually, around two-thirds of the benefit of the automation is negated, lost to the delays, labor cost and errors introduced by requiring manual input of the data into the target IP system, and the loss of ability to readily verify the data has been correctly loaded.

Moreover, the lack of interoperability in the industry also hinders many other avenues of digital transformation where so much of what is done on a day in and day out basis is exchanging information that is sourced from structured databases. This data, without interoperability, has to be unstructured in order to be exchanged, and then restructured manually and entered manually on the other end of the exchange. This is clearly a huge problem when digital transformation is a primary goal of law departments, law firms, and back-office operations.

On the plus side, many vendors do support interoperability and are helping firms like ours and companies like Black Hills IP deploy fully autonomous IP services that are revolutionizing the industry. These vendors include: Patrix (Patricia), CPA Global/Clarivate (FoundationIP, IPfolio, Inprotech), Computer Packages, Inc. (CPI), and AppColl. If you have one of these systems, for example, you can enjoy the full benefits of digital transformation in the IP industry. If your vendor or system is not on this list, you should consider switching as your IP system will be a major barrier to your digital transformation journey.

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