Tara Smith is the Client Service Delivery Manager at MaxVal. With 24 years of IP industry experience, she is responsible for patent renewals and delivering exceptional customer service.
Below is our interview with Tara where she shares her thoughts on challenges facing IP departments, how IP departments have changed in the last 10 years, and what to look for when selecting an IP renewals partner.
Can you tell me about your background, and what drew you to IP?
Tara Smith (Tara): Twenty-four years ago I was recruited by CPA Global to work in their newly established office in Alexandria, VA. There I became an expert in patent and trademark renewals, and was responsible for strategic account management and ultimately managed teams. I had the privilege of working with some of the best IP professionals in the industry, and today I’m still working with them here at MaxVal. I’ve always been drawn to working directly with our customers and being viewed as a true partner with them.
Can you tell me about your role at MaxVal, what are your areas of responsibility?
Tara: At MaxVal, I am the Client Service Delivery Manager for IP Renewals. I am responsible for ensuring that our customers receive their desired outcomes in an efficient and timely manner without compromising on quality. It’s my job to identify what their needs are, perhaps before they even realize there is a need.
I also review processes within our team to ensure we are operating efficiently and stay abreast of what is happening in the industry. I engage in collaboration across teams and regions to ensure we are aligned and always acting in the best interest of our customers.
What are some of the biggest challenges IP departments are facing with regard to managing IP renewals?
Tara: I find that many IP departments are struggling to keep pace. This is a fast-moving industry, and IP departments must manage an environment that is constantly evolving – this includes changes to laws, fees, data and systems. Understanding the impact of these changes can become overwhelming. Getting the right balance in what is managed in-house versus what can be outsourced through a partnership with an end-to-end IP solution can make all the difference.
Why are companies switching renewal providers, and what should they look for in a new provider?
Tara: Companies are switching renewal providers because they can. They are demanding better service, greater visibility, and more transparency. The power is with the customer. The shift to a SaaS model has made it easier to do so. In choosing a new provider, it should be about finding a trusted partner for the journey – a partner who will take time to fully understand where the company wants to be long-term and who will work with them to identify and choose the appropriate services to support those goals.
How have you seen IP departments evolve over the last 10 years?
Tara: Companies typically don’t have unlimited budgets and resources to keep up with increased volumes and faster delivery expectations. In the last 10 years, (in order to remain focused in their area of expertise), I’ve seen companies now proactively assessing the activities that can be outsourced. Doing so provides them with the bandwidth they need to accomplish their goals on time and within budget.
For someone new to managing IP renewals, what advice would you give?
Tara: Go beyond the patent or trademark numbers in front of you. Consider the steps and possible challenges a given applicant faced prior to being granted a patent or trademark, Recognize the significance and the value of that IP to the owner, and acknowledge that you are the steward of that IP to protect and renew. And most important of all, when managing patents and trademarks, never become complacent. IP does not sit still.