More than one-third of all the patents that Square Inc. holds were obtained in the span of roughly one year.
Since the payments company was founded in 2009, Square has filed 712 patent applications and obtained 221 patents. But between July 2016 and June 2017 alone, the company filed 144 patent applications and obtained 80 of those patents.
“Square’s diverse patent portfolio reflects its ingenuity, success and growth in an otherwise crowded technology space,” Kirupa Pushparaj, director of intellectual property at the payments company, said in an email interview.
Pushparaj works with a group of in-house IP attorneys at Square who handle patents, trademarks, copyright, domains, open source and IP litigation.
Square’s IP lawyers make it a point to stay in constant conversation. For instance, the group holds “sip and learns,” weekly sessions to discuss and review Federal Circuit decisions and talk about the impact of the company’s portfolio development and patent strategy. They also hold “claim wars,” weekly meetings during which the team reviews patent application drafts and provides feedback on the filings.
Pushparaj spoke to The Recorder about what makes its IP attorneys so savvy. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
What do you consider to be Square IP attorneys’ biggest accomplishments, particularly in the past year?
First, a strong understanding of the ever-changing law, which is not always easily available to an in-house team. We employ the weekly “sip and learns” and “claim war” sessions to present recent decisions and apply the learnings to how our strategies might be affected.
Second, our own house-built analytics and associated automation software have been instrumental in applying data-based intelligence to our prosecution activities. The engineer-first mentality of our IP counsel and our IP ops team has played a critical role in this. There are other aspects too, but this innovative approach has helped a great deal through this last year.
What is Square’s strategy when it comes to enforcement? Are there measures Square takes before resorting to litigation?
We believe that a good IP program is targeted at fostering innovation all around and not at stifling creativity or competition. We typically try to put ourselves in the other party’s shoes and consider whether there are any mutually beneficial solutions to the problem. We have found this to be far more effective in resolving even the most complex of issues than the usual heavy-handed approach that leads to litigation.
What are some examples of how Square is improving its IP strategies?
As a team, we are constantly looking into ways by which we can contribute beyond protecting our IP and resolving IP-related litigation. The way our team operates, we enjoy the unique benefit of being plugged in at a deep technical level with every product and engineering activity across the company. Taking advantage of this, an initiative we started last year was to see if we could reinject the IP we harness from one team back into product development for other teams where we see the trend and need.
As an example, through our brainstorming sessions with the engineering teams, we saw a trend of innovative machine-learning algorithms that worked especially well for certain issues. While it was built for one particular project, we saw from brainstorming with other teams that they were seeking to resolve similar problems but using different tools. We built a proposal with engineering blueprints for how they could use the IP available from the other teams to successfully resolve some of their issues, and they adopted our proposal. We have since then identified several other such opportunities.
What else is helping keep Square’s IP lawyers ahead of the curve?
Our emphasis and belief in relationship building. We go to almost every engineering and product development team meeting, understand the technology and pride ourselves in being part of the technology development team.