June 29, 2021
For most of us, regardless of industry or sector, the pandemic has transformed the way we work. This is especially true for the IP industry, which had to adapt quickly to a new way or working. While it is easy to think of forced changes as negative, there are several positive learnings I take from the global lockdown experience.
Technology changed the meaning of face-to-face meetings
Tools such as Teams and Zoom allowed global licensing efforts to not just continue but thrive. Before the pandemic, face-to-face meetings were expected and de rigeur at all stages of negotiation whether it was initial introductions, technical discussions, or business discussions. Everything was in-person, even if it meant, as it so often did, traveling to Asia for a single two-hour meeting.
Prior to March 2020, conventional wisdom said that these meetings were a necessity because complicated discussions, sensitive conversations, and negotiations involving hundreds of millions of dollars simply could not be done over the phone or by video. (The irony of an industry that created the world’s most important technologies not relying on those very technologies to get business done was not lost on me!)
This all changed with the pandemic, however, and while in-person meetings will inevitably resume, we have all become more comfortable with video meetings and appreciate the time and cost-efficiency of not losing a week to attend a meeting on the other side of the world. Of course, some meetings will still need to be done face-to-face, but in the future not every meeting in a licensing negotiation cycle will require teams to sit across the table from each other.
Leveraging the power of local expertise
As an international company, we have always recognized the importance of having team members located in key jurisdictions around the world, but the benefits of these relationships paid huge dividends during the pandemic. Unable to travel, we relied more than ever on having expert licensing professionals that we hired in local markets to provide a bridge so that we could continue to serve our clients.
Although our headquarters are in the US, our hiring during the pandemic was almost exclusively in other countries, so that we could make our international teams more robust. This strategy yielded one of our best years ever and inspired our continued commitment to expansion throughout Europe and Asia.
The importance of relationships during uncertain times
While we relied more on technology and new team members, the pandemic demonstrated the importance of our existing relationships with licensors and licensees. The trust and respect that our expert team had earned over the course of decades provided a solid foundation that allowed virtual deal-making to take place. Without this important foundation, perhaps no amount of technology or additional headcount could overcome the challenges of complex licensing.
Looking to the future
The pandemic created a boom in the electronics and telecom sectors as well as the need for additional innovation and associated licensing. I am proud of the way our industry was able to quickly pivot so that the gears of the machinery of international IP licensing continued to operate smoothly. While I look forward to resuming face-to-face meetings and conferences, I also look forward to continuing to enjoy the time and cost efficiencies resulting from the improved ways of doing business which the pandemic necessitated.