Welcome to the Transformative Sweet 16!
It’s March, which means time for the NCAA basketball March Madness tournament. Getting in the spirit at Transformative, we have created our own “Sweet 16” – 16 strategies for staying on top of your legal game. Just like the real Sweet 16, they are all pretty awesome… but can you guess which of these strategies we think are the most awesome? If you are the first, the last, or the lucky person we pick at random from the middle to guess the winner, you will not only get great fame (well, at least with us!), but we will let you also pick one of an even more select select pool of charities that support future innovators to receive a $50 donation and we’ll even throw in a $25 Starbucks e-gift card for you and your friends to boot!
So, how do you play? There’s no cost to enter, other than your time and brainpower. Browse through our 16 “teams” (each representing one of our favorite legal strategies) and let us know which one you think should go all the way to be our top strategy (the champion). You can vote by sending us an email to email@example.com with your selection in the subject header. We will let you know if you are the lucky winner, entitled to hoist the beautiful (albeit virtual) “Golden Turbine”. We’ll then ask you to pick from among some of the select charities that support innovation development, such as the National Math and Science Initiative, the Smithsonian Science Education Center, EnCorps STEM Teachers Program, the National Science Teachers Association, the Arizona Technology Council Foundation (or perhaps one of your choice?) and send you some coffee/Amazon credits.
Voting opens on Tuesday, March 13th and will remain open for one week, closing on Monday, March 19th. On Tuesday, March 20th, we will announce the Elite 8 and we’ll be off and running to crown the ultimate Champion. We already know who is in the Elite 8, Final 4, Final 2, and ultimate winner, but you will have to tune in to find out who we picked… and why (unlike the recent Oscars, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is not guarding our envelopes; however we promise not to change our minds mid-tourney).
Come have some fun with us and along the way pick up 16 helpful strategies for staying on top of your legal game in 2018.
03/29/2018 UPDATE!: The winners of our March Madness tournament have been awarded their turbine! Click here for the game summaries in our Elite 8 blog. Click here for the game summaries narrowing the field to the Final 4, and check out our final post to see who cut down the nets.
If the blood of any business is cash flow, the bones of nearly any modern business are the contracts that allow that cash to be collected, products to be made and sold, and innovations to get licensed. Contracts are truly the foundation of the business. But is your house in order? The House in Order strategy is one in which contracts are analyzed and risks and obligations mapped out to make sure that the organization is not in breach of its obligations, missing out on money it should be collecting, or creating conflicts in its legal position through contracts which operate at cross purposes to one another. Order also means looking into the risks of little agreements, even down to the purchase order level. Does your business have this kind of solid foundation? Transformative can help with strategies to help identify risks and to set up practices that keep your house in tip top shape.
No, they can’t dance like MC Hammer, but they certainly can build an excellent wall. Not like that flashy one in China, which barbarians just walked around, or the one in Northern England, that wasn’t big enough or solid enough to keep anyone seriously out. We’re talking like the one that Theodosian built. Who??? The guy who built the wall which stood un-breached for over 800 years. Now, that’s a track record of protecting assets! How’d he do it? Did he build high, long, or thick? The answer is he did all three! In the same way companies that go high and low, far and wide, with their IP strategies, especially with patent strategies, build the kind of portfolios that cannot be broken or maneuvered around. Has your patent strategy included sets of narrow and broad claims, claims limited by definitions and claims that are not, and different styles of claims? If not, it might be time to consider the issue. Like every good football coach knows (sorry, wrong game, but it works here), if the offensive line isn’t working, the quarterback is going to get sacked. Make sure your innovation can’t be touched. Build an effective wall! Transformative can help you design and build one. It’s one of our favorite things to do!
The nickname for this team should be the “Minutemen”. “Wait ‘til you see the whites of their eyes.” A big risk when up against the world’s number one military force, but one that paid off for a little upstart that would eventually become the USA. At the Battle of Bunker Hill, short on ammunition and powder, the Americans, led by Colonel William Prescott, received this difficult to follow order. The strategy, of taking the risk, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, paid off in the end, allowing the American’s to win a victory that gave the colonists the confidence to continue on fighting a war against the greatest military power on Earth. Just like these brave men did hundreds of years ago, innovative startups that use smart legal strategies, weighing the risks, and striking when the moment is right based on risk analysis, can often get returns that less thoughtful or overly cautious organizations cannot. This is not the road often taken by legal counsel, but we think it is critical to help our clients understand risks clearly, so that they have the choice to take some risks that may lead to such bigger rewards.
United we stand, divided we fall. It might be the number one theme of every great adventure movie ever made. The reason is obvious – – alignment works. When we are all rowing in the same direction we can unlock amazing synergy. So why should it be any different with your relationship with your legal team? If you are not feeling that alignment, you might want to look at some of the ways Transformative approaches aligning its work with its client’s interests. You might just be surprised to hear the lengths we are willing to go to get on the same side of the table with our clients.
The sad reality of business is that some of the biggest risks to a company are most likely going to come from inside the company. After employees learn a company’s secrets they often can become its most fierce competitors. Unfortunately the trend in key states for innovation (Massachusetts and California) is to make nearly any agreement not to compete unenforceable. In fact in most states these contracts are surprisingly difficult to enforce and usually provide much less protection than the company expects or needs, especially in a global economy. The Pit Bull, or guard dog strategy finds other ways to reduce these risks, such as the proprietary strategies developed by Transformative.
Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship and the best way to get to trust is complete transparency. That’s what makes Transparency so powerful. The Transparent strategy is one in which everything is explained until everyone gets it. There are no mysteries or secrets on the team. There is no secret or special knowledge. As such, everyone can contribute to the winning strategy. This is one of our core values at Transformative and we know that companies that embrace this strategy, especially in their relationship with counsel, are going to go far.
Ninjas use the power of secrecy to achieve their goals, even in incredibly dangerous situations. In an ever-increasing competitive landscape, secrecy may be a powerful tool for your organization. The value of legally protected secrets, through contracts and trade secret laws, is increasing in importance. Have you taken the steps to make sure your valuable secrets are protected? Trade secrets also can be a valuable business asset. Transformative provides a trade secret certification tool that can help validate these company assets for investors and other third parties. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss the program or how we can help with maintain the secrecy of your confidential information so you, too, can act like a ninja (just please remember we don’t work with nunchaku, throwing stars, etc.).
Da Biz is all about taking care of business. This one is mostly for the new entrepreneurs out there. Do you have the right legal entity to protect yourself, your ideas, and your loved ones? We see a lot of mistakes in how innovators structure their business, especially in the age of off the shelf businesses available over the internet. Why does it matter? If you have the wrong kind of business or if you don’t take care of business you might be liable when things go wrong when you were covered because you created a company or other business structure… or you may think your business is managed a certain way… but you have incorporated in a state that doesn’t support that form of management. While we certainly appreciate saving money at Transformative, the whole point of starting an LLC or other business entity is to protect the individuals behind the company. Has yours effectively done that? Transformative can help you take a look and make sure your corporate house is OK.
If you got it, flaunt it. Style, that is. In our work we deal with lots of excellent innovators that forget about or underplay the importance of branding. Image can matter, a lot. This is why companies with a strong track record of technical innovation like Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft; pharmaceutical giants like AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson; and even large machinery manufacturers like Caterpillar and Tesla put a good deal of effort into protecting designs and brands. Trademarks, copyrights, design patents, and trade dress are important to these companies because goodwill matters to consumers. Are you leveraging your style by adequately protecting it? If not, Transformative can help you evaluate strategies for ensuring competitors don’t trade on your goodwill. And, if you got it, flaunt it!
Eagle Eyes prides itself on being able to see for miles, miles, and miles. No threat and no opportunity goes unnoticed by Eagle Eyes. The counterpart in business? Effective IP landscape monitoring. IP risks can ruin a company or cost millions. An effective monitoring program provides the best defense against these sorts of risks. An effective monitoring program can also help find opportunities – licensing and acquisition targets for your organization. Do you have an Eagle Eye monitoring strategy in place? If not, Transformative can help set one up or even implement one for your organization.
Goldilocks isn’t going to jump in a bed that’s too hard or too soft. She’s not going to eat some sub-standard porridge that is freezing cold, or one that’s too hot to taste. Nope, she’s going to right size everything to her and her needs. That’s why she looks so darn good and feels so happy, even living in a forest populated with families of co-habitating, talking bears. A company that has the Goldilocks strategy down knows how to right size their legal. They aren’t looking to pay for gold inlay on the firms new and shiny marble conference room table (at least not for day-to-day matters), nor are they looking to send their work to $1 day quik-and-cheepy legal (probably in some foreign country). Nope. These companies know how to right size their legal representation by selecting counsel that is not over the top or missing the boat. This is where Transformative focuses: the middle. It’s an usual strategy in today’s age of extremes, but we think it’s the right place to be for our clients. Contact us to find out more of what we mean when we say we embrace the Goldilocks strategy.
In the late 1990’s Kevin G. Rivette and David Kline released Rembrandts in the Attic: Unlocking the Hidden Value of Patents which has become a bestselling business book. Rivette and Kline famously stated, “In this new ecology of competition, it is not our land or natural resources but intellectual property that now carries the DNA of wealth creation, the genetic code for competitive advantage.” Rivette and Kline give numerous examples of companies that failed to appreciate the intellectual property they had right under their nose. Although it’s been nearly 20 years since the publication of Rembrandts, it’s still often our experience that Rivette and Kline’s word remain true. The Clean Sweep strategy avoids this risk. It looks far and wide for finding ideas of value, not limiting them to just the CSO or CTO. Marketing, manufacturing, quality, sales, all may have ideas and even within the scientific and technical divisions not all ideas may have gotten to the IP team. Many more times than not we have seen the Clean Sweep strategy turn into big value for clients.
He might not be as pretty as Goldilocks, but pound-for-pound Master Yoda might just be one of the most successful little green creatures to ever use the force. His secret? The power of knowledge that comes from deep study of the ways of the force. Just the same, companies that have a strong knowledge base in the critical parts of using the law to turn innovation into assets are more effective at building the kind of intellectual property portfolios that end up generating big returns in investments, licensing, and exclusive products and services. A little knowledge can go a very long way. Imparting this knowledge is one of our favorite jobs, and one we usually do it completely for free. Contact us to talk about how we can help your team get trained.
Tex is a born cowboy, making sure that none of his herd gets diverted in the wrong direction. Great companies make similarly sure that they are maximizing returns by not letting revenues attributable to their innovation get diverted. The number of people and organizations engaged in knock offs, counterfeits, and unauthorized re-selling of goods is increasing all of the time, as is the sophistication of these organizations. Does your organization have the means in place to monitor and stop product diversion? If not, Transformative may be able to make sure that no one messes with you, just like no one messes with Tex.
They may look like lightweights but Got Spirit? can make an impact that is much bigger than you would expect. The Got Spirit? strategy is all about creating the right incentives and the right environment for innovation within your company. This means creating goals and rewards relating to innovation and generating assets through legal processes such as patents. 3M famously took one key step towards this by allowing employees to spend time on their own projects, resulting in such widespread and successful innovations as Post It Notes and today Google allows employees to take advantages of similar strategies. Lockheed Martin had the other side of this equation right with its generous award system for patent applications, rewarding up 10s of 1000s of dollars on patents that generated big returns for the company to inventors through royalty compensation programs. Having the right environment for innovation certainly leads to better idea creation and a lot more of it, making for a stronger company. This is an area where we love to help, so if you need ideas on how to set this up or make it stronger in your company, regardless of where you are at, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.
OK, they look like hot heads, but the Pressure Cookers keep it cool by keeping things constantly under pressure. Just like the US Navy Seals constantly train under high pressure situations, companies that embrace the Pressure Cooker strategy put their intellectual property assets under the microscope and into the pressure cooker, seeing if those assets will hold up to challenge. One of our favorite jobs is helping companies with this important task. That’s because a good Pressure Cooker project identifies strengths in the intellectual property portfolio, as well as opportunities to create more value. What a great way to leverage innovation to create assets through legal strategies.
If you have made it this far, we applaud your interest in innovative legal strategies. You are our kind of people! Don’t forget to send us your vote (firstname.lastname@example.org)…GAME ON!