Corporate IP: How outsourcing made Microsoft a patent powerhouse

Intellectual Property Magazine

After putting the company among the top-10 patent filers in the US, ex-Microsoft attorney Jeffrey L Ranck reveals how to implement a successful outsourcing strategy

Jeffrey L Ranck, Schwegman Lundberg Woessner IP Attorneys and MultiLing

As Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” That inspirational idea was particularly helpful during my tenure as an assistant general counsel at Microsoft. About a decade ago, we were tasked with tripling the number of patents filed each year from about 1,000 to 3,000, with little additional headcount or budget. As IP professionals, the tune of doing more with the same – or less – isn’t a new one, but if we can learn to think differently about these challenges (including how we do our jobs and define our roles), we should be able create new ways of protecting our corporate IP worldwide without eating profits in the process.

About a decade ago, we were asked to triple the number of patents filed (from about 1,000 to 3,000) each year, with little additional headcount or budget. The goal was to put Microsoft in the top 10 patent filers in the United States. Although we had taken measures in the past to become more efficient, such a huge goal would require us to reengineer not only our department, but also our thought processes.

We brought the challenge to our outside counsel to help identify solutions. Stymied, they acknowledged the difficulty of the situation, yet their only real suggestion was to suggest we not cut their fees. We knew it was time to think differently.

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