Tuesday, December 23, 2008

IP enforcement insurance

Dear Rich: Do you know of or have you heard of IP enforcement insurance? We have been contacted by a broker who is selling enforcement insurance along with  protection insurance against third party claims. Are these companies legitimate? Should I be suspicious? They want a hefty nonrefundable "assessment fee" to asses the risk of insuring our company. This fee is not credited against premium payments. I'm so glad you asked. The short answers to your questions are, "yes, I have heard of them," and "yes, they are usually legitimate," and "yes, you should be suspicious of any insurance offer."
The policies that are available for patents, copyrights, and trademarks come in two forms: defensive insurance that pays for attorney fees, settlements, and judgments (up  to your policy limit) if you are sued over your IP property (that covers the 3rd party clams); and offensive enforcement (or abatement) insurance that pays part (or all) of your expenses if you sue an infringer. Enforcement policies are more popular among smaller entities with patents who cannot afford the hefty fees associated with patent litigation since the average cost of a patent lawsuit is reported to be $2 million (and often much more).
IP insurance companies screen potential customers to make sure the coast is clear regarding the patent or copyright they will potentially enforce. Among the issues you need to consider are whether the company lets you choose your own counsel, how much the company is entitled for reimbursement out of any final judgment or settlement, the company's rating, and of course, the premiums and upfront fees. (Sometimes these companies may help you successfully stop infringers, but you won't see much money from the effort.) One alternative when you can't afford to enforce your IP is to find an attorney that will take your case on contingency (and make sure to review the fees carefully). The Dear Rich staff cannot recommend or endorse any of these companies, but you can learn more about the subject at the IP Frontline site or at 2XR
P.S.: Before considering any insurance, check your business liability policy to avoid overlaps.