Clause 8 Podcast: Ray Millien, a Renaissance Man of IP

Raymond Millien likes to compare himself to Forrest Gump.

As someone who pivoted from a programming job at GE Aerospace to a career in intellectual property law, bounced between in-house and outside counsel roles within that space, and even got involved in public policy, he’s definitely a renaissance man. And he’s fallen into many of those jobs by accident.

He credits his adventurous and successful career — working as Chief IP Counsel for big-name companies like Volvo, founding his own IP boutique, and now serving as the CEO of Harness IP — to intellectual curiosity and openness.

Appreciating every aspect of the game, Ray says, means you’ll play smarter.

“I never want to take one camp or the other because your client may be a patent troll today, it may be an operating company tomorrow. And all of them are necessary in the ecosystem,” he says.

Prior to his current role, Ray also served as the general counsel of Ocean Tomo, helped rebuilt the IP program of Goldman Sachs after the Great Recession, and co-founded the PCT Law Group – where he worked closely with Chris Israel on IP public policy.

These varied experiences have given Ray special insight about the roles of in-house and outside counsel, how to properly built a patent portfolio for a major corporation, and what it takes to succeed in the IP field.

Key Takeaways

  • Role of outside counsel is to help in-house counsel succeed
      • “If you’re outside counsel, and you represent my company, and I’m the Chief IP counsel, you have two jobs. You have two jobs. You either get me promoted, or you get me a bigger chief IP counsel job. That’s your job is plain and simple.”
  • Being a Chief IP Counsel is about a lot more than law. It’s a huge responsibility that Millien often compares to that of a fire warden — someone who is trying to prevent fires rather than put them out. At most major companies, the job involves human resources, physical security, and marketing. The chief IP counsel must hire and manage people who they trust to get the job done well, as well monitor R&D and keep intellectual property safe.
      • “And that’s what people don’t realize — when you’re a Chief IP Counsel, that title comes with a lot of responsibility to get the best out of your people every day. Because I cannot read every patent application, I cannot file every trademark application, and I can’t review every IP clause and every vendor agreement. Your team has to do that. And so, again, 50% of the job is really HR and managing people.”
  • “Be a renaissance lawyer” and “always keep learning” are keys to success in the IP field
  • Financial services companies shouldn’t ignore patents. Millien says companies ignore patents at their own peril.
      • “Even with the state of software patents these days, I think [financial services firms] ignore patents at their peril. The Wall Street banks have always been a target of non-practicing entities. And whether some of those patents that are being asserted against them get knocked out on 101 under Alice or Bilski, or whatever the case may be, they’re still being hit a lot. And I think they ignore patents at their peril.”
  • Setting quotas for patent filings is a mistake.
      •  “Look, you never want to buy a car that was built on a Friday, right? Do you want to really enforce a patent that was filed in December?”
  • Balancing quantity and quality in a patent portfolio.
      •  “When you’re in a startup situation, I think you always worry about quantity. And then once quantity gets to be at a certain threshold — that certain threshold based on your revenue, based on your industry, based on the technology — then you start worrying about quality … Once patenting is built into the DNA of the company, obtaining IP rights, then you can start being a little bit more selective in worrying about the quality of the portfolio. But to get quality, you first need quantity.”


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