Outsourcing looks set to play an increasingly important role in all kinds of businesses. The trends suggest it is increasing, and as technology advances it will become more and more vital to the success of business to understand what activities they should be outsourcing and which they should keep in-house.
But of what we are talking about? Which are the numbers of outsourcing, especially in IP management, and how Brandstock can help you? Let’s see all of those topics in this long form article.
What does outsourcing mean (and why do companies outsource)
Since even before the advent of the Internet, companies have looked to outsource certain tasks. Typically, outsourcing involves sending certain tasks or work streams to an external supplier to perform, for an agreed cost on an agreed timeline. While the specific tasks are industry-dependent, broadly speaking, companies outsource work for the following reasons:
There are several obvious advantages of outsourcing. Many companies may have tasks that only need to be completed infrequently, making it not worth having permanent staff assigned to those tasks. In this instance, paying an external supplier to perform the task will maximise resources by ensuring that they are only paid for the work you need them to do, rather than for the whole time. Depending on the task, it may well be much less expensive to go for an outsourced solution too.
Similarly, from a training perspective, it may make sense to outsource a task in order to avoid investing in training and development of a staff member to do a job that isn’t core to your business. Where external suppliers have technology solutions that are highly effective, or expertise that you don’t have in-house, these are also big advantages of outsourcing.
Additionally, outsourcing enables you to search for the solution that works best for your needs, by comparing different suppliers on a cost and quality basis before deciding what is the best solution. Another advantage of outsourcing is that it allows you to leverage external experience and expertise to improve the quality of your output.
And finally, a big advantage of outsourcing is that if the solution you choose doesn’t work well, or if the business priorities change, you don’t have to stay with the supplier beyond the term of your contract, giving you more flexibility to change direction if you need to.
Most of the disadvantages of outsourcing are to do with management. If you are sending tasks to an external supplier then managing the work of another person or team can be a challenge, since they will have different working practices from you and may expect to be accountable in different ways. Similarly, if it doesn’t work well, then you may be stuck with a fixed cost for a service that isn’t adding value to your operation.
Both of these can be mitigated by developing a good relationship with your external supplier, and helping them understand your working practices and expectations clearly at the beginning. Drafting a good initial contract will also help, ensuring that if something goes wrong, everyone is clear about what happens next.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has seen many companies look again about how they work, and that is likely to result in a trend towards further outsourcing. In 2018, according to Activator Consulting, approximately 37% of small businesses in the US outsourced 1 or more business functions, while more than half were planning to in 2019. And as the whole world has moved more towards remote working in light of the pandemic, this trend looks set to continue.
In 2020, always according to Activator Consulting, the outsourcing trend is to focus more on the process and people involved in outsourcing than looking at price alone. As with any business decision, if cost is the only consideration you may find yourself playing less for a poor service when in fact paying a little more for a service which works well for you is a sensible investment rather than a cost.
Another 2020 outsourcing trend is the shift away from India as the key locus of work. While India remains a hugely important venue for outsourcing due to the high numbers of educated workers and relatively low wages, other countries are also developing outsourcing resources quickly, namely China, Ukraine, Poland, and various Latin American countries.
Other key 2020 outsourcing trends include a greater number of businesses looking to outsource business functions in order to get greater expertise at lower cost, and more reliance on developing bespoke agreements for particular pieces of work. Each company has different needs, and companies that provide outsourced services will have to account for this in the agreements they sign.
Companies with important IP portfolios and the law firms who represent them have long understood the importance of outsourcing IP management.
For companies with very large portfolios of IP assets, whether they be trademarks or patents, much of the work of maintaining them is largely administrative. Remembering to pay renewal fees; ensuring recordal information is up to date; even identifying gaps in the portfolio: these are all tasks that take a lot of time and resource but don’t necessarily require huge amounts of expertise.
For these companies, outsourcing those IP management functions makes a lot of sense, especially if that supplier has lots of experience and comes at a lower cost than the employees that would be needed to do it in-house. Additionally, outsourcing IP management can make sense when the external supplier has a technological solution that automates or at least speeds up some of the tasks. This can cut costs and time resources significantly compared to doing it in-house.
Beyond that, legal outsourcing services can be useful when you need a different perspective – for example when searching for new names or trademarks for your product, or looking for prior art on a patent. You can do this in-house, but many companies appreciate that leveraging different expertise and perspective is likely to have better results in less time.
When Glencairn Glass realised that it had a problem with counterfeiters mimicking the shape of its iconic tulip glass, it looked to outsource its online anticounterfeiting efforts. It faced multiple challenges, from legitimate sellers using incorrect brand guidelines to unuathorised copies and bad fakes
Its outsourced partner quickly established a process for identifying and dealing with incorrect or fake listings, as well to enable the company to list key products on the EUIPO Enforcement Database, adding an additional level of protection. It also assisted the company in partnering with online marketplaces and participating in their efforts to tackle fakes, with the result that there is now a fast, effective process that protects the company’s IP rights online.
Nissan North America engaged a different external supplier to help with its anti-counterfeiting efforts online. This gave it access to tools and monitoring capabilities it had not previously have, and resulted in a large increase in the number of problematic websites it identified, as well as greatly reducing the number of listings for counterfeit Nissan products on online marketplaces.
Indeed, the company estimated it successfully removed more than 30,000 counterfeit products from the market after outsourcing, and that the solution generated excellent return on investment.
Brandstock offers a range of services that companies may wish to consider when they’re looking at IP outsourcing. Chief among them is Brandstock Complete, developed to tackle some of the main challenges faced by corporates in managing their IP.
This service meets all your IP outsourcing needs, from renewals, to search, filing, prosecution, auditing, recordals, agent management, docketing, invoice checking, enforcement and name creation. Beyond that, it enables you to pick and choose which particular services you wish to take advantage of, adding to or removing things from your package as you go.
Brandstock expects that taking advantage of such an arrangement will save you money; for example, if you take advantage of its external international agent network, you’ll benefit from the economies of scale that come with Brandstock’s buying power and can expect to pay less in the aggregate than you would have by doing it yourself.
Pricing is completely transparent, and you negotiate a flat fee for the services you require, invoiced quarterly, so there’s no danger of being hit with unexpectedly high bills for your outsourcing.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll have a single primary point of contact for your account at Brandstock, enabling easy communication and facilitating the relationship being one of colleagues rather than services. The aim is to make Brandstock an effective part of your IP function rather than an addition to it. It’s a comprehensive, flexible and transparent service that can save you money and time while delivering the results you need.