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Everyone knows that lawyers cost money. Usually, in fact, they cost a whole lot of money. That’s the reason that corporate law departments, for example, are typically regarded as cost centers rather than revenue producers. In-house lawyers who focus their work on, say, real estate transactions or employment disputes obviously play a vital role in the business affairs of their companies. But they don’t tend to generate much in the way of bottom-line revenues for their employers. When it comes to intellectual property, however, many companies have long known that thar’s gold in them there assets. Maximizing the value of those assets, on the other hand, is often easier said than done. Do lawyers help or hinder in that effort? Traditionally, the management and oversight of a company’s IP portfolio has rested within the corporate law department, with assistance, of course, from outside counsel. But over at Hewlett-Packard, the Silicon Valley-based computer and technology company, tradition has given way to unabashed entrepreneurship when it comes to mining the company’s substantial IP assets. As you’ll read in one of our feature articles in this issue, “Who Needs the Lawyers?”, the company not long ago set up a new business unit, separate from corporate legal, that is devoted to licensing and other revenue-creating activities that stem from its IP collection. “Maximize profit from an IP portfolio?” says David Klein, a technology transactions expert at Shearman & Sterling. “That’s not really a lawyer’s expertise.” To be sure, lawyers will not be cut out of the loop entirely, whether at HP or anywhere else. In fact, another one of our articles in this issue reports that in-house hiring of IP attorneys is showing some signs of an uptick, fueled in large part by the awareness that licensing deals are often the key to more robust bottom lines. Whether some of those lawyers will eventually be replaced by their MBA counterparts, meanwhile, remains to be seen. Either way, the care and feeding of intellectual property — patents, trademarks, copyrights — will continue to command the attention of corporate officials, whether they reside inside the law department or in other cubicles and corner offices. Corporate America isn’t the only place where IP rights are jealously guarded. In this issue’s “In the News” department, you’ll read about a three-person IP unit within the Los Angeles city attorney’s office that is devoted to protecting — and profiting from — the city’s own collection of IP assets. What else would you expect when the city attorney himself is a former IP practitioner who knows his own way around a trademark negotiation? Steven Pressman Editor

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