PNC Financial Services Group’s law department includes Robert J. Pugh, its chief counsel, technology and intellectual property. Pugh recognized that PNC needed a way to identify new technology-based systems and processes that might be patentable. As described in Counsel to Counsel, July 2007 at 12, Pugh began with an internal program to educate clients about what can be patented and why doing so is valuable (See my post of July 10, 2007 about no good deed going unpunished.).
Next, he targetted for additional efforts some areas within the company that might be especially fertile, such as departments that focus on product or application development.
What impressed me is that Pugh found out that PNC maintains a “Technology Initiatives” database that tracks information about new technology-oriented projects. He cleverly piggy-backed on that database. “To leverage the database, the legal department added a simple yet effective step – embedding a short series of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions concerning the initiative into the database and requiring each project manager to answer them.” Project managers need to take only another minute or two to answer the questions but if they answer in certain ways, the system sends an email to the law department that alerts the lawyers to a potential patent (See my post of Jan. 17, 2006 for how McDonald’s lawyers use a corporate mainframe database for real estate data.).