We are uncomfortable with “pay-to-play” and have tried to operate differently. Of course, sponsors are necessary, as we simply could not produce programming and distribute our content as we do without the financial support of our sponsors. Because we are often asked point blank whether sponsorship is required to obtain a speaking role in our programs, we choose to provide this information to be as transparent as possible.
Our “Pay-to-Play” Policy
Our initial attempt to have a blanket prohibition against any form of pay-to-play ironically, and we suppose predictably in hindsight, has led to some choosing not to sponsor our programs and events while continuing to sponsor events where there are overt quid pro quo requirements. This placed us in an untenable position, at least if we wanted to continue to host events.
It is important to understand that IPWatchdog.com is built on a freemium model. Our articles are never posted behind a paywall, which is why our readership is much larger than that of IAM Magazine, for example. Attendance is always free for our webinars and virtual programs, which means these are sponsor supported, and are the one way we monetize IPWatchdog, Inc. This freemium model maximizes attendance and dissemination of content, which is why these programs average much higher attendance than industry averages. We build these programs in conjunction with our sponsors. Without the support of our sponsors, we simply could not produce and distribute our content.
With live, in-person events, which are typically hosted at the IPWatchdog Studios in Ashburn, VA, or in the case of our annual meeting, IPWatchdog LIVE, is held at major hotels for convenience, we do charge attendees a fair market rate to attend. Given the costs of hosting such events, and the fact that many speakers and industry elite are given free tickets, ticket sales alone are insufficient to make the endeavor more than a break-even proposition (if that). The economics of hosting an event means that sponsors are a necessity even when tickets are priced at fair market value.
We hope sponsors find it beneficial to partner with us, which includes not only a financial aspect, but also includes collaboration. From our perspective, the ideal sponsor is one who is interested in both providing the financial support that goes along with sponsorship and who will also work with us to invite speakers, define topics, and more. This type of partnership forms the basis of long-term business relationship and is far more than the quid pro quo expected in a pay-to-play scenario.
Do you require sponsorship for a speaking role?
The short answer is no, we do not have an absolute pay-to-play requirement. We always have some speaking roles available for in-house corporate attorneys and business leaders, current or former government officials and judges, those with unusual knowledge necessary to facilitate a particular discussion we wish to have, and recurring guest contributors on IPWatchdog.com.
Majority of our live program sponsors are law firms, and with their sponsorships, there is an expectation of having their attorney(s) speak on the program. Therefore, we work with sponsors and long-time advisors in the first instance to identify topics of interest, panels, and speakers. Thereafter, we look to non-sponsoring organizations to invite those speakers who have expressed interest to fill the other speaking slots within the last several weeks prior to the program.
Can anyone buy their way onto a program?
Absolutely not! We will never sell a speaking role to just anyone simply because they pay and have declined sponsorship offers in the past from organizations who offered to sponsor only if we guaranteed a speaking role to someone we wouldn’t otherwise invite to speak on our programs. We fundamentally believe selling speaking rolls to anyone, and everyone does not work because it compromises content. Our strategy is to provide the highest quality content possible, which means the top speakers available, who will attract top-level attendees. Speakers always need to be approved and have the requisite level of expertise to contemporaneously engage in unscripted dialogue. This generally means that speakers, panelists, and moderators must fit within the Patent Masters™ brand (i.e., an expert with a minimum of 12 year’s experience on the topic they will be speaking on).