Month: November 2017

Ten Things: Legal Blogs You Should Check Out (2017 Edition)

When I first started writing this blog back in November 2014, I had no idea what I was doing.  While some might say I still don’t (thanks, Mom!), I have gotten better at it.  This blog now has over 2,400 followers – which still amazes me – and I sometimes pause for a moment to think why that is.  I remember that one of the reasons I started writing “Ten Things” was because I was frustrated with many of the blogs and articles I have read as an in-house lawyer.  While full of good intentions most of them just weren’t useful or were just poorly disguised marketing pieces. I would read them and when I finished I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to take away from the article in my everyday practice as an in-house lawyer.  My goal has always been to try to write about topics that are interesting and to provide practical, useful advice.  My guiding principle has always been to imagine myself sitting in a room with someone and trying to explain the issue and the next steps.  Then I write that down.  Yep, pretty much that simple.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am not solving world hunger here either.  I’m just writing a blog.

Occasionally, I get asked, “what makes a good blog?”  Usually, this is a question asked by someone who wants to start writing their own blog.  First, I highly encourage any of you to start your own blog if you have any interest in and passion for writing.  Second, keep three things in mind:

  1. Write about what you know and what interests you.  Don’t’ try to be a fake expert on anything.  If you don’t enjoy it, it will seem like drudge work.  And we all have enough of that already;
  2. Write simply.  Yes, you went to law school and paid a lot of money to learn about big words and Latin phrases but – and sorry to break the news – no one wants to read a blog that reads like an AmLaw 50 firm brief to the 7th Circuit.  Stick to short sentences, active voice, and a definite lack of legal jargon.  Impress people with your ability to write clearly and succinctly vs. breaking the meter on pomposity;
  3. Always give the reader some practical and usable advice.  When I am done reading a blog post I love it when the writer gives me a list of “here’s what you should do next” or “here’s some sample language.”  Providing useful tidbits is what keeps readers coming back.

I don’t always succeed with my blog but I do use these three points as my writer’s compass whenever I start to write a post.  All of which brings me to the point of this edition of “Ten Things.”  For past couple of years, I have posted a blog listing ten legal blogs that I think are worth your time to check out.  You can click here to see my 2015 and 2016 editions.  I continue to highly recommend all of the blogs listed in these prior posts.  But, I am always on the lookout for new ones and, fortunately, there are a lot of great writers out there who have legal blogs that are worth your time and – in my opinion – closely follow my three points for what makes a good blog.  But, you can judge for yourself.  Even if you only find one of the blogs below to be useful to you, then I have met my goal.  So, in no particular order of importance, here are my top ten blog suggestions for 2017:

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Ten Things: Creating an In-House Patent Program

I was looking back on my past blogs recently and I realized that it has been a while since I discussed issues related to intellectual property (“IP”).  This week, I’ll try to remedy that oversight.  For just about any company, IP is an important part of its assets be it trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights, or this week’s topic, patents.  Most of my in-house career has been spent with technology companies (or working with divisions of those companies focusing on technology).  Everything I know about the topic I picked up along the way.  I am not a computer science graduate, nor did I study IP issues during law school.  And I handled a few minor IP-related issues at my first law firm.  It really wasn’t until I became the General Counsel at Travelocity that I had my initial experiences with patents.  First, as the victim of the initial wave of “patent troll” cases.  Second, when by default I became the leader of our patent harvesting committee.  It wasn’t much of a program to start with but I decided to dig in and learn as much I could about patents and why it was important that we, as a company, tried to develop them.  It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, especially getting to interact with our software engineers and other super smart people who were developing the next wave of company technology.  Our patent program got better and more refined over time and the USPTO issued a number of patents to Travelocity.   I was never one of the inventors on any of our patents but I like to think the legal department played a critical role in developing those patents.  In my new job, I realize that we have a similar opportunity to build our program and enhance how we develop patents.  So, for this edition of “Ten Things,” I am reaching back to my past to lay out the key points in developing an in-house patent program.  I am going to assume you don’t know a whole lot about patents and (to keep things simple) I will focus on the US patent system – but the principles below work in just about any country:

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