Nair Flores, who became Lyft Inc.’s first in-house intellectual property attorney in October 2016, has been with the company through rapid growth and its inroads into the autonomous vehicle space. Flores, who is managing IP counsel at the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company, has also led an in-house team that increased patent activity by 300 percent since the implementation of an internal patent program in October 2016.
Thanks to her previous role as Facebook Inc.’s inaugural patent counsel, Flores is more than a little familiar with building up a team and IP strategy at a company that’s quickly changing. “It’s a lot of building and at a quick pace where the company is running a million miles an hour,” she said. “It’s trying to build while the ship is moving, basically.”
Flores added that at Lyft, “[keeping up] with the fast growth of the company, making sure we’re pacing with them, is a daily challenge.”
Despite the difficulties that may surface, Flores and her in-house IP team—which includes one full-time attorney and two others with whom she works closely—have seen success with respect to patents because of an internal patent development program, she said. This program, she explained, involves outreach to Lyft engineers, project managers and designers to educate them about the patent development process, strategic decisions on the litigation front (which may mean “nontraditional solutions”) as well as managing outside counsel.
“We also sit [in] on some strategic business reviews and business meetings, which helps us stay on top of the product,” Flores added, noting that there’s support high up in the company for keeping her team in the loop on strategy.
For Flores, this helps with, “not just knowing what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it.” That then gives her team insight into “what to prioritize, what to file, what’s maybe not as important,” she said.
The team additionally works to find “creative ways to make [the patent process] easier and faster,” according to Flores. One way of doing this, she said, is by providing bulleted outlines along with “laborious” patent applications to help guide those involved through applications. Another approach is flexibility in terms of reviewing an application in-person versus electronically.
“We just try to ultimately put ourselves in the shoes of the engineers and the product managers and make it as easy and interesting as possible to participate,” Flores said.