Kent Richardson shares how he and his business partner have built their small, yet powerful law firm
Could you tell us a little bit more about your role at Richardson Oliver Law Group?
“My Partner and I have been running it successfully for nine years now. There are six of us in the team here in Silicon Valley— it’s a gorgeous place to work. Although we have IP backgrounds, we have both been general counsels a few times, and our work reflects a mix of IP, business, technology, and finance.
“As leading advisers on the secondary market for patents, we spend about half our time helping corporations buy and sell patents. We spend another 40% on general patent strategy, which covers everything from portfolio analysis, budgeting, best practice in operations and financial modeling. Then, the remaining 10%, we spend on other areas like technology transactions, M &A, and general advisory work.”
What are the typical challenges you and your clients face within your industry?
“There are a couple of general problems or questions to problems we are often asking. The first area is when you want to get a sense of a specific company or industry. You want to find out who owns what and what the general activity is. We look at aspects like increased patenting, who might own a controlling interest in patents, and whether there is an element of that industry where there is something unusual going on.
“Another set of questions is, do we believe that there is increased investment in this area? Or do we believe that a particular company has increased, or decreased their investments?
“That sort of information is not very easy to get. You have to do a variety of things like Google searches, look through financial data, and we’ll also use patent information to get a more comprehensive analysis. Getting this sort of information was really hard to do 10 years ago. Companies weren’t requesting this type of comprehensive analysis at the time because it just wasn’t available. You can do things today that, frankly, were very expensive and impractical to do 10 years ago.”
What does success look like for you and your clients?
“Our goal is to provide actionable advice for our clients. That means that the client knows what action they should take based on the data and analysis. For example, recently, we wanted to identify the owners of assets within a technology area and then propose actions to take for different owners. The success metrics were based on how comprehensive a view we had of the patents in the landscape, specifically by country, technology, and ownership. We applied patent strategy and business criteria to the list to break the list into M &A acquisition targets, licensing partnership opportunities, and outright patent purchases. The client had a set of companies and assets to combine with corporate development information to make a refined business development plan.
“At the end of the day, for us, a success criterion is whether you have actionable results. We define what might be an actionable result at the beginning of the process by asking questions like, ‘Imagine the answer was X, what would you do next?’”
How does PatSnap fit into your day to day role, and has it added any value to your work?
“The initial thing that I loved, and still love about PatSnap, is that I can dive into a general technology area, or search results, and get a sense of the landscape very quickly. I can understand who the primary companies are and what kind of assets they hold. At the other end of the spectrum, I can quickly understand what’s going on at a company. For example, our client wanted to know everything they could about a specific company, and the PatSnap default analysis worked great. In the course of about two hours, we were able to see what the target company had been filing, where they’d been filing, and when they’d dropped their filing rate. I was able to provide enough information to the client for them to ask some pointed questions about how that target company’s business was doing in specific business areas.
“We work in patent analytics a lot and have developed a number of preferences. The great thing about working with PatSnap is the team is responsive and interested in improving, and understanding how their customers use the product. I really appreciate that opportunity, and it’s really nice to work closely with them.
“I also use the claim tree, which is pretty handy when wanting to get a sense of one patent family. I’ll look at the individual patent view so that I can see the contents of the patent, and then see how it matches up with the family. Overall, it’s pretty easy to navigate from a large pool of search results down to individual claims. PatSnap does a good job of supporting our needs from very high-level views to great detail.
“A typical workflow for us starts with us trying a few things within PatSnap, then focusing on getting the complete data set from PatSnap. We’ve built a number of tools that we use to evaluate patents, so we’ll then export the full set of data from PatSnap. One of the patent evaluation tools we’ve built gives us a raw rank of patents; we open sourced the model (available here). So not only are we able to do some sampling, testing and visualisation with PatSnap features, when we export its data we’re able to use it effectively.
“We use PatSnap, amongst other resources, to generate an annual report that we publish about the secondary patent market (buying and selling of bare patents). This is our sixth year of publishing the report, and it’s become a pretty important part of the industry. In that report database, we have about 115,000 assets now that we track. We look at who’s buying them, who’s selling them, what the prices are, and companies are able to use the report as a baseline on what the market’s average price for a patent is. We’ve also been able to start correlating characteristics of patents. So, we use data from PatSnap and other folks to start to look for characteristics of more valuable patents.”
How did your firm find out about PatSnap, and why/how did you make the decision to purchase the subscription?
“We compared five different tools along metrics such as comprehensiveness of the data set, user interface, the speed of the platform (especially for larger searches), price, and responsiveness of the team to requests. PatSnap won.”
Are there personal drivers behind what you’re doing? Why is this so important to you?
“I started as a patent attorney in 1993, so it’s been 25 years now. I’d been prosecuting the patents for one of my clients, and then became their general counsel and we took them public. We generated about 50% of the revenue off of patent licenses in that company. For me, I have directly seen the positive impact of patents for inventors, industry, and investors — about 95% of the worlds computer chips are made using technology developed at that company. Then I was Vice President of IP at Rambus, and then SVP Admin at Sezmi. All the companies used intellectual property to further their business. In all of my in-house jobs, we focused on actionable results, on actionable strategy and giving the legal opinion in the context of the business.
“My business partner Erik and I worked as in-house counsel for a long time, which allowed us to focus on specific types of issues like, how do you make information actionable? Generating an answer with which the internal team can do something.
“It’s one of the questions I ask my clients now, ‘Imagine I had the answer in front of you right now, if it was yes, no, or something else, what would you do differently?’ That’s an interesting question for people because it turns out having the answer is only part of the problem, then you need to understand how you make changes based on that information.”