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A questionable law department as a profit center (SAP Canada)

SAP Canada has 11 members in its legal department, according to an interview in Canadian Lawyer Inhouse, Vol. 1, June 2006 at 13, of its general counsel, Barry Fisher. Fisher is proud that his department “became a profit centre when it adopted a tool that verifies and audits the degree of customer usage under a software license.”

Apparently the law department has taken on the responsibility of monitoring usage levels compared to licensed levels and, it is left unsaid, obtaining additional payments. That a law department is brought in where a customer balks at paying license fees or disputes the interpretation of the license agreement surprises no one; that a law department monitors and enforces compliance with licensing terms does surprise. Policing payments is not the valuable function of a law department.

I also remark on the IP productivity of the department: Fisher notes that it filed 1,700 patents in 2005. A prodigious output, it seems to me, for a handful of lawyers, unless applications are prepared by others or most of the work is administrative prosecutions through the Canadian patent office.

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