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IP Docketing Software Can Be Exciting, Really!
Published By Legal Tech Newsletter June 2003

What could be duller than a law firm's docketing system, especially one for an intellectual property (IP) firm that has to keep track of deadlines and facts for hundreds of thousands of patent and trademark filings in hundreds of countries? While docketing, the recording of critical information and events surrounding intellectual property, is an essential part of any IP practice, most firms think it does not have to be fancy, just reliable. At Brinks Gilson & Lione, we thought the same, until we realized that by upgrading to a state-of-the-art system, we could deliver a better, more technologically-savvy and efficient product, that was more in line with the way we deliver all of our other services. We chose to be one of the first firms to utilize new software that allows access up to 100 concurrent users at once, and allows clients access to their data from the Web as well. While upgrading the IP software for one of the largest IP law firms in the country was certainly not an easy task, it has brought tremendous benefits not only to our lawyers and staff, but to our clients as well.

Upgrading to the new software (IP Master by Master Data Center in Michigan) required a six month commitment by our entire docket staff. We had to convert more than 75,000 records and 1 million pieces of data. We held weekly assessment meetings with the software company/consultant and the docket conversion team using PC anywhere. Using PC anywhere expedited the whole conversion process because all the participants could see first hand what was taking place.

We also created a separate database that served as our testing ground. Once we felt the data was converted properly, we moved to the actual parallel phase, running systems side by side to further test for data integrity. For the system to work, proper calculations of all patent and trademark rules by the software had to be thoroughly evaluated, and proper report generating had to be designed in order to match all prior docket reports in the old system.

The resulting system now allows up to 100 users at one time. In the old system, there only could be a limited number of users at one time before the system would get bogged down. The new database reduces the chance of system delays and eliminates unwanted down time. It also allows greater availability of reports. For example, attorneys and staff are able to generate reports on specific records or cases and arrange them in a defined order, extracting only the precise information they are looking for. It can pull trademark reports with images for clients and generate several different types of form letters for our U.S. and International Docketing Departments. This customized report pulls the data from the database and allows the attorney or secretary to then display the information and design the look of the report in an Excel list, letter or some other format and send it to the client by e-mail in minutes.

Most importantly, our clients appreciate being able to use the new system themselves. The Web Access Module allows our clients to browse, review, and print their case records though our secured Web site using a common Web browser. The Web Access Module is intended for our clients' attorneys or administrators who need to access vital real-time information on any of their cases. It provides our clients with an easy and cost-effective method to review their own portfolios. Restrictive security allows clients read-only access to their records - and their records only.

Our clients rave about the new system and their ability to access it remotely through our system's Web Access Module, giving them the flexibility to pull their own data from a secured environment. For example, one large client with close to 900 cases now has access to all their data. With the Download Data extract feature, this client no longer has to worry about doing docket entry on their end; any updates made in the system by the Firm automatically update the client's own system as well. This eliminates dual docketing, is faster than before, less prone to error, and saves the client money. Future versions of the Web Access Module will let the client chose from four different customized front end screens. Since the system was launched, 41 clients have been set up with Web Access Module.

This system has many possibilities for expansion with even more high-tech features. For example, we are exploring the possibility of adding 'Workflow' tracking to help keep processes of prosecution and trademark registrations on tighter schedules and improving firm efficiency. In the near future, Attorneys will also have the capability of loading their docket calendars directly to their PDA from IP Master.

Since high-tech case data and the Internet are vital to the future of docketing for our clients and the Firm, the choice to make the change seems obvious now. And with the increased power and greater access of the system, our Firm has a greater chance to take on more of a client's work. Certainly, the process of going through any conversion can be painful, but the dividends for the Firm and its clients that can provide tremendous advantages in the marketplace. We expect to see more and more firms making this conversion down the road to keep up with the latest technology advancements. Emerging high-tech tools like this system let us put docket information access directly into the hands of the clients. That is better for the client, and consistent with our goal of providing the best quality service for the best value.

Mark Rolla is Director of Intellectual Property Docket Systems at Brinks Gilson & Lione in Chicago and has more than 16 years of experience in management of docket departments.

Reprinted with permission from the June 2003 edition of the Legal Tech Newsletter, © 2003 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.