How to foresee and manage the risks of a neglected legal docket
Your legal docket is a key repository of information about the intellectual property assets in your business, and yet in many companies it can be an alarming mass of information, rife with errors and omissions.
The reasons for this are complex, but its effects can be far reaching. Inaccurate docketing can cause major headaches.
Unless you have had robust policies for docketing in place since the moment the business launched, it’s likely your legal docket will be somewhat messy. Perhaps because information has been inputted by different people in different ways, or because you’ve acquired assets from another business, or possibly because the way you do docketing has changed.
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Legal docket Risks
One of the key things to do in order to mitigate the risks associated with your legal docket is to identify the nature of those risks up front. That means working out what might be wrong with your docket, and what those errors would mean for your business if left uncorrected.
Incomplete information is one of the most likely risks, and one of the biggest. Do you have the correct information on goods and services for each trademark? Do you have information on designations for international registrations? If the answer to these questions is no, then you risk being unable to successfully enforce your rights, or at the very least, you create a headache should such a situation arise.
Another common problem is that you have data quality problems in particular territories, or for particular portfolios. This may be due to the local agents you’ve been using or the documentation from the IP offices in those countries. But again, it causes several potential problems for your legal docket, since you can’t make effective decisions about enforcing or enhancing your protection if you’re not wholly clear on what protection you have.
If you’ve recently acquired another business or undergone ownership changes, or even if you’ve recently changed how you manage your legal docket, it’s possible that you have incomplete information. This can be particularly problematic if ownership information is incorrect, since you may find yourself unable to enforce trademarks that haven’t been properly assigned. Conversely, if you are planning to divest some of the assets, incomplete information will make that much more challenging than it needs to be.
How to manage the risks
There are two key elements to make sure your legal docket works for you. First, you need to correct anything that’s wrong; and second, you need to embed solutions to prevent a recurrence of the issues.
In order to correct a neglected docket, it is best to conduct a data audit. You can do this in-house or using an external partner, depending on your resources and priorities. Any comprehensive data audit will likely involve multiple local agents. The key thing to remember is that you want the results to be uniform and compatible with your legal docket. It is also sensible to export your data from whatever system you currently use, so that you can effectively match it to the results of the audit.
Once you’ve completed your audit, you need to analyse and check the results. Is anything wrong with the data? Do you have the information you asked for? There is no point in updating your legal docket with new data if that data is also wrong!
When you’re happy with that data, you’ll have a decision to make. It may be you need to conduct a recordals project if information is incorrect. Depending on the size of the task, you may wish to instruct an external provider to assist you. And however you do it, make sure that part of the process involves updating everyone who inputs data into the system on how you want it to be done in the future, to avoid inconsistencies arising. This may involve making changes to your process for IP management system updates.
Legal Docket: The end of the road!
Once you have the correct information for your legal docket, and procedures in place to ensure you don’t have inconsistencies in the future, all you have to do is update your system with the clean data!
If you can automate this, so much the better, since it is likely to be more accurate and your software may well spot inaccuracies – for example, if a particular field is missing on a record. And also make sure that the only people who can amend the records are people you want to have access!
And that’s it! Managing the risks of a neglected legal docket is no easy task, but it’s one that all business will benefit from in the long term.