Bonita Lewis Bell, vice president and deputy general counsel at Terex
Bonita Lewis Bell, vice president and deputy general counsel at Terex

There is no doubt that intellectual property can be a valuable asset for any company, and it is a topic that is on the minds of many a board member and general counsel. One question that companies may have about IP is how to leverage it to impact shareholder value, and this was the topic of a session at the Women, Influence & Power in Law event this week in Washington, D.C.

The session, “Leveraging IP to Impact Shareholder Value,” was moderated by Kelly Burns, managing shareholder, Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, and featured Bonita Lewis Bell, vice president and deputy general counsel at Terex; Courtenay Brinckerhoff, partner, Foley & Lardner LLP; and Alyssa Harvey Dawson, vice president and associate general counsel, Global Intellectual Property, Harman International.

Bell spoke of her experiences at Terex, and her role as the first IP specialist at the company. When she started, the company did not see the value in IP, and part of her job was to challenge that notion. Terex was facing suits from companies, and the interest in IP began as a way to address litigation costs.

Dawson shared her story as well, speaking about her work at Harman. The company faced a bit lawsuit from a competitor, and Harman realized it did not have its portfolio in order. Dawson was able to dig in and get information about the portfolio and network with engineers and others.

Brinckerhoff shared the questions she would ask the people she works with in this area, highlighting the need to coordinate talks between research and development and patent attorneys.

On the topic of dealing with competitors, Bell stated that it was the responsibility of engineers and salespeople to keep up with what others in the space were doing. Dawson added that she valued the importance of making decisions via a committee, so that all points of view are taken into account.

The talk turned to how the legal landscape is shifting. Brinckerhoff discussed the AIA, highlighting some significant changes. She discussed the new first-to-file regulation, and talked about other matters, such as foreign IP laws, FTC scrutiny and more.

The takeaway from the session was that IP is, of course, an extremely important asset, but it is essential that all aspects of the team, from those writing the patents, to those performing the R&D to those who will defend the portfolio if infringed, must work together internally (and, when appropriate, with outside counsel) to best protect and leverage the IP portfolio.