Even Non

-Innovators are at Risk">

Reuters' legal department also offers frequent and ongoing training classes and Webinars for the IT development group to teach the finer points of innovation and patent protection. And Blankenship was one of the more popular special guests at the company's internal developers' conference, held last August in Las Vegas, at which it gathered 400 of its key developers and technology managers from around the world.

Even companies that don't innovate enough to merit patent protection and merely deploy proven technology to assist time-tested business processes should step up their documentation of any new systems, experts recommend. "Even if you don't get patent protection, if you have a good system in place that documents when your inventors did something, those dates can be very critical in terms of defending against an attack by a patent troll," says Lewis Gould, who chairs the IP practice group at law firm Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia.

Development needs to be documented meticulously, both to assist in prosecuting patent applications and to defend against infringement claims, echoes Dan Davis, chief technology officer at Morgan Beaumont Inc., a Bradenton, Fla., provider of stored-value debit cards. "It's pretty simple to do, but if you don't do it the right way, it's not a viable document in litigation," he cautions. "Things as simple as making sure that your documentation is done, for example, in a numbered journal with non-removable pages and then, at least on a periodic basis, having the dates notarized."

This type of legal minutiae may not come easily to overtaxed IT departments stretched thin by recent bouts of prolonged belt-tightening, but it may be the best defense against a mounting army of trolls that would make J.R.R. Tolkien shake in his boots.

Laments Thomson's Krivoshik: "If everyone feels that they need to play in that defensive mode, it's going to be a big drain on financial resources, but also, quite frankly, a drain on the intellectual resources that could be better served building the next solution for your customer or end client."

ROB GARRETSON has more than 20 years' experience as a business and technology journalist, most recently as a reporter and an editor on the financial desk of The Washington Post.

This article was originally published on 12-05-2005
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