Wayne Sobon, president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)
In discussing the role of chief intellectual property counsel (CIPC) with Wayne Sobon, senior vice president and general counsel at Inventergy and president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), the conversation moved from talk of the potential IP challenges of 3D printing to comparisons between CIPC and professional hockey players. During the conversation, however, Sobon painted one picture that stuck out from the rest.
“The most effective chief IP counsel sit at the boundary line between ideas and business value,” Sobon says. It's a clear distillation of an extremely important point. As discussed in the first part of this series, intellectual property has risen to become an essential business asset in the modern economy. Because of this increased importance, more and more companies realize the need for a chief IP counsel, and, more specifically, one who possesses both business and technical competence.
Building a competitive advantage
As Sobon points out, the importance of intellectual property is not limited to hi-tech companies, and chief IP counsel must develop an IP strategy specifically tailored to his or her company. Even with a wealth of business and legal savvy, a CIPC can't merely adopt a cookie-cutter approach. Sobon explains that the CIPC must think about what a company is doing and why that work is important. Nowadays, boards and chief officers are asking for detail that goes beyond a quarterly report. As patent news now makes the front page nearly every day, boards and officers want to know how intellectual property can help the company get to the next level or gain a competitive advantage.
A balancing act
This technical competence must be merged with legal competence, of course, but also with business savvy. The CIPC needs to be able to translate legalese into business strategies, conveying to the C-suite and board in a successful way. He also cites emotional intelligence as a key trait for success.