Hot IP Sector Resulting in More Work for Law Firms, New Report Shows

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intellectual property

Intellectual Property continues to be a hot segment of the legal marketplace. However, making the decision to protect or enforce intellectual property rights has increasingly become a strategic discussion between patent owners and their IP counsel, especially in light of recent legislation and Supreme Court decisions. A new report from Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute and the law firm of Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox looks at the IP sectors and shows who is benefiting in the current landscape and what trends to watch over the next few years.

Trends in Patent and Trademark Prosecution: Growth or Decline?

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the number of application filings increased each year from 2010 to 2014 for both patent applications and trademark applications.

Thomson Reuters’ Peer Monitor reports that the growth in demand for the patent prosecution market segment has outpaced the corresponding demand growth in the overall legal marketplace. Looking closely at law firm segments within the patent prosecution market, Am Law firms have experienced positive growth over the past three years, primarily driven by the firms in the Am Law Second 100 tier.

Patent graphic

In contrast, midsize firms — those outside the Am Law 100 and Second 100 categories — have experienced negative growth over the past four years. The 2012-2013 period was the most difficult for midsize firms, with year-to-year declines in the patent prosecution market of more than 10%. Over the past two years, stability has returned for these firms, though positive growth has been elusive. IP specialty firms have experienced growth on par with or slightly greater than the growth experienced by the Am Law firms.

Patent Prosecution Trends

The report highlights several trends, including:

  • Patent prosecution continues to grow for Am Law and IP specialty firms. Meanwhile, midsize firms continue to experience negative growth.
  • While trademark prosecution growth has been erratic over the last five years, both midsize and IP specialty firms have experienced positive growth over the last two years.
  • Patent litigation filings are on track to rebound after a dip in 2014, with IP specialty firms experiencing positive growth in this area, most likely due to PTAB litigation.
  • Am Law firms are starting to take on more PTAB litigation, although the IP specialty firms continue to dominate this type of work.