Our “Pay-to-Play” Policy

We are uncomfortable with “pay-to-play” and have tried to operate differently. The simple truth is sponsors are necessary. We simply cannot produce and host programs without the financial support of our sponsors. So, while sponsorship is not a prerequisite to speaking, sponsors get preference in many ways, and sponsors at higher levels get the greatest preference.

It is also important to keep in mind that while we do charge a registration fee, many speakers and attendees pay nothing to attend. We do not charge a registration fee or expect sponsorship from current or former judges, current or former government employees and officials, high-ranking in-house counsel, or frequent contributors to IPWatchdog.com. This allows us to ensure the integrity and quality of our programs and have A+ caliber people in our audience. It also means we rely heavily on sponsors to make programs a financially feasible endeavor.

The prime opportunities at our programs go to sponsors, not to those from firms who do not sponsor. In short, non-sponsoring law firm speakers fill in, and they don’t get to pick their panel or the timing of the panel, or who else is on the panel. We also do not allow more than one speaker from a firm that is not sponsoring.

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, and answers to frequently asked questions, in order to be as transparent as possible.

What is your policy on “Pay-to-Play”?

Our initial attempt to have a blanket prohibition against any form of pay-to-play ironically, and we suppose predictably in hindsight, 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.

With live, in-person events, the costs of hosting such events, and the fact that many speakers and industry elite are given free tickets, mean that 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 do not require sponsorship to speak, but preference goes to sponsors.

We believe sponsors find it beneficial to partner with us, and we know our programs result in leads, sales, and business. We coordinate with our sponsors so we can put on the best program possible and to give them the best opportunities we can. 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 a long-term business relationship and is far more than the quid pro quo expected in a pay-to-play scenario, and yields far greater results for sponsors.

Do you require sponsorship for a speaking role?

The short answer is no, we do not have an absolute pay-to-play requirement. We also always have speaking roles available for in-house corporate attorneys and business leaders, current or former government officials and judges, and recurring guest contributors on IPWatchdog.com.

The majority of our live program sponsors are law firms and vendors, and with their sponsorships, there is an expectation of having their attorney(s) speak on the program.  Therefore, we work with sponsors to identify topics of interest, panels, and speakers. Thereafter, we look to those from non-sponsoring organizations who have expressed interest in speaking. Speakers who are not sponsoring will be invited as necessary to fill speaking slots on panels already planned. This typically happens within the last several weeks before a program.

I can’t sponsor, but want to speak on one of the first several panels, does that work?

No. Panels that lead off the conference, and are before lunch on the first day, are generally prime positions that are reserved for sponsors, in-house attorneys, judges, and government officials. While we do not engage in pay-to-play, panel preference and timing goes to those who are sponsoring.

I can’t sponsor, but I’m happy to plan a panel, will that work?

No. If you are unable to sponsor, we may be able to use you on a panel that is already planned, but we do not give non-sponsors their own panel, nor do we plan a panel specifically for non-sponsors. Non-sponsors are invited to fill panels based on our need and because they have some expertise that would fit within a pre-existing panel.

I can’t sponsor, but several of the attorneys from my firm are willing to speak, is that OK?

No. Obviously, this doesn’t work. There are only so many speaking slots available at a program and we do not allow multiple speakers from firms or vendors who are not sponsoring.

If I don’t sponsor, when will I know if I’m speaking?

We work with sponsors to plan the overall program, identify topics for conversation, plan panels and invite speakers. This process goes on for months and leads up to the final few weeks before a program. We typically do not begin confirming speaking positions for those who are not sponsoring until the final few weeks before a 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 we 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 years’ experience on the topic they will be speaking on).

*Updated on January 3, 2024