There are a few interesting, long-term trends in the data worth mentioning, that affect everyone and not just lawyers or those who work in the brand protection and IP industry. Perhaps the most glaring one is that:
The Cost of Doing Business Globally is Going Down, But the Cost of Protecting Intellectual Property Keeps Going Up
By 2014, the out-of-pocket costs of engaging in global commercial activity have become extremely low. In fact, they are the lowest they have ever been.
For example, a relatively desirable Internet domain name can be leased for only a few dollars a year. Using templates and shared hosting, virtually anyone can design and host an e-commerce website very cheaply.
This is a departure from a decade ago, when designing a website required an understanding of HTML and related computer languages, technical knowledge generally limited to IT Departments and computer consulting firms.
Similarly, marketing has become cheap. Today, by using free e-mail accounts and social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Yahoo! for communication and marketing, and low-cost international distribution and shipping channels like eBay, Stamps.com, AliBaba and others, a well-managed small business can conceivably generate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in only a short amount of time.
Yet the out-of-pocket cost involved in protecting a brand against Intellectual Property theft and infringement, both online and in the brick and mortar context, continues to spiral ever upward.
For example, the high-profile attorneys in the Apple v. Samsung patent wars charged their clients $1,200 per hour. The hourly billing rates at all the large law firms have reached an all-time high, with many lawyers routinely charging well over $1,000 per hour.
And clients who choose smaller law firms and those firms that offer "flat fee" arrangements may get a better deal, but are not immune from the increased competition for high-quality intellectual property legal services.
For example, one small law firm in Maryland posted its flat fees online, and notes that it is charging up to $12,000 for filing a provisional U.S. patent application. An appeal if it is denied could add another $8,000. That may be less than a large law firm's services, but just filing for a patent is still an expensive proposition.
And of course, that is just the first step in protecting Intellectual Property. Filing for a patent or trademark is no guarantee that it will be respected by others.
When infringers are inevitably discovered, commencing and pursuing complex litigation against them routinely costs companies many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Therefore, it is clear that while many are finding it easier and easier to start and develop businesses, they are also finding it more and more expensive to effectively protect their Intellectual Property assets against thieves and infringers.
What does this trend signify? It would appear that the marketplace is beginning to fully understand that the legal services offered by experienced Intellectual Property lawyers are at a premium, because branding and IP assets in general are as valuable -- if not more valuable -- than traditional ones.