LinkedIn has firmly established itself as the go-to professional networking platform, with over 630 million registered users in over 200 countries worldwide. The platform first launched in 2003, and by 2012 had grown into a worldwide brand which was gaining two new members every second. This success was however not reflected in the company’s patent portfolio, as the company had purposely held off establishing a defined patent filing programme until the success of the platform had been proven. This cautious approach to patent protection – whilst the company profile and profits continued to soar – increased the risk of patent assertion by rival companies operating in similar business spheres.
In 2012, the company made a conscious decision to seriously bolster its patent portfolio, with the intention of warding off the potential risk of patent assertion. They established an internal patent team, and worked with an IP strategy specialist to devise a patent approach that introduced a complete shift in the patent culture of the company, raising awareness and introducing specific training within the research and development teams, introducing invention harvesting sessions, and setting specific targets related to patent filings. Over the next four years, this patent-focused strategy would see the company’s patent portfolio grow 50 fold to almost 2000 assets, attained through a combination of a significant increase in their own patent filings and a robust programme to acquire relevant patents from other companies.
Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016 provides evidence that the shift in patent strategy has been successful: in making the company less vulnerable to attack from other patent holders, it became more attractive overall as a business concern. The brand continues to go from strength to strength, suggesting that the decision to focus on patents back in 2012 was a wise one.