From tablets to wearable and connected car technologies, Microsoft easily has one of the world’s most enviable intellectual property portfolios. Standing behind that portfolio is the company’s dedicated Intellectual Property Group (IPG), consisting of approximately 150 engineers, attorneys, paralegals, program managers, and operations processionals. The group is easily regarded as the gold standard for corporate IP organizations, both for the brilliant minds it employs and the best practices and technologies it embraces. But even one of the world’s most valuable companies faces challenges.
Five years ago, says Director of IP Operations Melanie Carmosino, Microsoft’s IPG underwent a major sea change. Determined to eliminate waste, increase efficiency and embrace digital transformation, Carmosino and her team knew they needed to take a hard look at their processes and technologies—including the third-party vendors to whom they regularly outsourced projects and administrative work. At the same time, the group was also looking to replace its outdated IP management system (IPMS) with technology that better met the company’s evolving needs.
To solve both challenges, Microsoft turned to CPA Global.
“What we’ve experienced with CPA Global is a true partnership,” Carmosino says. “Because they understand our business so well, and because we have their software and they can see how our work is processed, they’re able to have a full picture. When you marry that big picture with all of their deep expertise and the solutions they’ve built, to me it’s the ultimate package. I know I have the best tool on the market, with the strongest team behind it and the deepest expertise.”
Solutions and Services Used
- Patent and design renewals
- IDS management
- PCT and foreign filings
- Law update service
- Title updates
With so many patents to maintain and a constant influx of new ideas to herald through the IP lifecycle, Microsoft’s IPG often found itself with more work and more patents than it could manage in-house. Like many organizations, the company’s intellectual property team frequently relied on external service providers to help manage much of that burden.
Using multiple (and sometimes competing) vendors came with challenges, however. One vendor, for instance, might handle proofreading while others handled annuities, docketing or invoicing—all culminating in inconsistent processes and outcomes.
Complicating matters further? The IPMS vendor Microsoft was using at the time would not provide access to the company’s various other service providers and consultants—including CPA Global, who was managing Microsoft’s annuities. “It’s something companies need to think about,” Carmosino says. “If you’re going to have an external services team, be mindful of the tool you select because that vendor may not let your services people directly access the system, or they may put in place very stringent limitations.”
This created a recurrent bottleneck, requiring too much back and forth answer-chasing on the part of Microsoft. “Having all that come back in from so many separate partners and places just didn’t make sense,” Carmosino said. “It was difficult to manage and hard to coordinate.”
From Scattered to Streamlined
The group knew it needed a more cohesive, streamlined approach to outsourcing work. They wanted more than just a vendor, however. The IPG wanted a partner who would act as an extension of Microsoft’s team and who could help the group continue down its path to digital transformation. Accomplishing that, Carmosino explains, required someone with expertise in the IPMS they ultimately selected.
Impressed with the results they’d experienced working with CPA Global on annuities, the IPG gradually began outsourcing other work to CPA Global as well. As the partnership grew stronger, it made sense for Microsoft to also consider Memotech by CPA Global in its search for a new IPMS. “We realized we already had so much work going through CPA,” Carmosino said. “Investing in the system that CPA Global’s services team were already experts in was just another way to synergize.”
Supported and encouraged both by CPA Global’s services and software teams, Microsoft’s IPG quickly began achieving greater efficiency and incredible results, among them:
- $1.6 million saved in unnecessary expenses caused by faulty invoicing
- Decreased time-to-filing from 90 days to fewer than 45 days
- 86% data integrity achieved
- $5.8M in saved in US maintenance fees post data quality validation of expiry dates
- Decreased internal IT spend by 70% as a result of an Azure hosted solution
- Increased ability of attorneys and paralegals to touch every aspect of business
- Increased user satisfaction of 44% in annual employee survey
Most recently, Carmosino says, CPA took over Microsoft’s IDS management. The team ingested over 894,000 references to build out the reference library. The resulting automated process and decrease in law firm expenditures has saved the company an estimated $1.6 million in just one year. “Now our IDS is an automated process through CPA Global, for which we pay nothing to outside counsel,” she says. Between the money saved in services and having a more efficient system, Carmosino says, the IPG is able to do four times the volume of work.
In addition to the routine support provided by CPA Global, Microsoft has undergone large scale projects such as ensuring chain of title is reflected properly on a global scale. CPA Global’s recordal team was engaged to assist in the worldwide assignment of over 90,000 assets and ensure that Memotech reflected true ownership across the portfolio. Microsoft continues to use this team during large project efforts where chain of title research is necessary. “The ability to tap into a bench of resources at this scale, with a team that can also directly manage the ongoing system updates that result, made this enormous effort even possible”, Carmosino says.
“We don’t have data integrity issues, we don’t have process issues, we don’t have things breaking,” Carmosino says. “Things just work. The synergy we have and CPA’s deep understanding of our business, lets CPA serve as more of a consultant than just taking orders and doing what we say.”