This article is not an abstract presentation of the benefits and potential of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Rather it is about how RPA helped the Global Legal Department of UiPath, which consists of 44 legal professionals assigning the tedious tasks that no lawyer likes to a software robot (bot).
For those who have never heard of RPA, here is a quick summary in three words: automating repetitive tasks (with the help of a bot). RPA is the key to liberating all professionals, including lawyers, from repetitive and redundant tasks in order to allow them to focus on more strategic initiatives, while saving money for their companies.
The UiPath legal team started the design and implementation of the first legal bot as early as 2017; today UiPath has over ten bots in action. One of them is the IPR Bot which will be described in detail further below.
The IPR Bot is a complex intellectual property rights screening solution centered around an intellectual property rights repository, that uses the results of different processes performed by several robots to inform UiPath lawyers of related processes and to trigger relevant actions, either independently, with the help of unattended robots, or with minor human intervention, while using attended robots.
The IPR Bot solution was designed to cover the following activities which are usually carried out in a very time-consuming process by an IP practitioner:
- Trademark clearance searches – the Clearance Bot
- Monitoring third-party trademark applications – the Monitoring Bot
- Performing online searches in order to detect intellectual-property-rights infringements – the Infringement Bot
- Triggering actions to enforce rights, for example by submitting cease-and-desist notices or trademark oppositions – the Drafting Bot.
- Now, let’s follow the IPR Bot step by step, and look at the way it works, while helping IP attorneys to focus on the law, and not on the mundane.
The Clearance Bot
The Clearance Bot was the very first robot of the complex IPR solution to be deployed in production. The necessity of a Clearance Bot emerged due to the rapid growth of the company, in anticipation of an imminent IPO which triggered the need to rapidly secure the intellectual property rights portfolio of the company, but also due to the high number of new products that were released. Growing from three to more than twenty products (on top of other smaller components) over the span of two years raised the problem of finding the right names. Product naming can obviously lead to trademark infringements and to costs related to re-branding, as well as potential reputational risks. Therefore, any expanding company, especially one that aims to become public or is already a public company, should perform thorough clearance searches before releasing new products.
Clearance searches are tiresome and monotonous work and this is where the Clearance Bot can step in to save the legal practitioner at least one day of unexciting and boring work. The Clearance Bot has significantly reduced the time previously required by an UiPath IP practitioner to manually enter keywords, classification criteria and filters in trademark databases and to compile, classify and assess the results. Right now, the lawyer provides the Clearance Bot with the prospective name and the Nice Classification classes of goods and services for which UiPath will use the prospective name. Afterwards, the robot performs a screening of the following trademark databases: the database of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the European Union Intellectual Property Office and that of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The potentially conflicting trademarks are identified and compiled in a report based on trademark name and registered class of goods and services. The data compiled in the report is then classified by the robot into three categories depending on the extent to which the existing registered trademarks coincide with the name that needs to be cleared:
- Green category – very low practical risk of triggering a trademark infringement claim;
- Yellow category – low to medium practical risk of triggering a trademark infringement claim;
- Red category – medium to high risk of triggering a trademark infringement claim.
- The entire search performed by the Clearance Bot takes no longer than a couple of minutes for each name clearance search. Achieving the same result before – without the bot – would have taken an entire day.
Once the clearance search is finalized, the robot sends the results to the legal practitioner who can now review the report and make an informed decision on whether a product name can be used or not. If the lawyer decides that the prospective product name can be used, and that it should be registered as trademark, the Clearance Bot will include the data – product name and Nice Classification classes in the intellectual property rights repository from which it will be pulled by the next bot, the Monitoring Bot.
The trademark applications are still filled in and submitted by our legal practitioners. No robot has been designed for this task – yet.
The Monitoring Bot
Most companies use trademark-monitoring software or services to protect their brand. Before going into more detail regarding how UiPath does this, it is worth mentioning that that adoption of RPA in the legal world does not exclude the existing legal technology or artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, but rather works hand in hand with them, helping legal professionals adopt AI and existing legal technologies while further reducing the need for human intervention.
Since UiPath was already using an external monitoring tool, we had to decide on whether to a) train our own bots to do the same task, which would have required training the robot to screen UiPath’s registered trademarks against the new trademark applications available on the public databases that are of interest to the company or the customer; or b) link the robot with an existing trademark-monitoring tool to minimize human intervention.
The UiPath Legal team decided to have the Monitoring Bot work together with the existing software rather than starting from scratch. To be more precise, the Monitoring Bot feeds the already registered UiPath trademarks into the third-party tool. The latter performs the search against new trademark applications and identifies trademarks that might come into conflict with those of UiPath. The Monitoring Bot gathers the information from the third-party monitoring tool and e-mails the lawyer a report with its findings. The lawyer analyses the report and decides whether the flagged trademark applications are infringing UiPath trademarks which have already been registered and if any actions need to be taken, for example, if it is necessary to file an opposition against a trademark application. In such a case, the Monitoring Bot will enter the trademark’s application details, the actions that must be taken by the lawyer, and the deadline for such actions into the IPR Repository.
If the lawyers decide to take actions against the flagged trademark applications by filing an opposition, the Drafting Bot gets pulled in, but before diving into the Drafting Bot, let’s take a look at the infringement detection bot which also triggers tasks for the Drafting Bot.
The Infringement Bot
The Infringement Bot is another example of good teamwork between RPA and existing third-party legal tools. As in the case of monitoring, here too both the third-party solutions and the UiPath bots help to detect internet-based content t that infringes UiPath IP.
Once the third-party solutions flag potential usage of UiPath copyrights or trademarks, the Infringement Bot steps in. It gathers the flagged content and compares it against the UiPath IPR Repository. This is the place where UiPath keeps track of the permissions UiPath grants to third parties to use their intellectual property portfolio. If the robot does not identify any permission granted to the potentially infringing party, it updates the IP Repository with the information regarding the newly identified infringements.
A UiPath legal practitioner is notified each time a new infringing case is added to the IPR Repository. Once notified, the lawyer starts the assessment to determine whether a cease-and-desist notice should be sent to the potentially infringing third party or not. If the legal practitioner decides to take actions against the allegedly infringing party, the Drafting Bot is triggered.
The Drafting Bot
The Drafting Bot has two main tasks: (a) drafting oppositions against new trademark applications, and (b) drafting and submitting a cease-and-desist notices to third parties unlawfully using UiPath IP rights.
The Opposition. The first draft of an opposition submitted by UiPath against the registration of a new trademark usually revolves around several standard legal grounds such as, for example, the similarity or resemblance between two trademarks used for products or services in the same classes, the likelihood of confusion among end users, the extent to which the owner of the new trademark can take unfair advantage of the reputation of the earlier mark of UiPath, etc. The fact that oppositions are drafted on standard pre-drafted legal arguments means that this process has a high automation potential, and that the opposition template can be filled in automatically by a robot.
After the legal practitioner has analyzed the trademark applications flagged by the Monitoring Bot, the lawyer triggers the Drafting Bot, which prepares the opposition. The lawyer chooses the ground or the grounds for the opposition from a drop-down list. The Drafting Bot populates the opposition template by adding the details of the UiPath trademark that is being infringed. The details of the trademark application as provided in the IPR Repository and the arguments selected by the legal practitioner are added to the opposition draft.
Once the draft is ready, it is e-mailed to the lawyer for a sanity check and for other more tailored arguments, if required, before being submitted to the relevant trademark authority. Once the human review is completed, the lawyer validates the draft with the click of a button and the Drafting Bot initiates the signature process with the help of a third-party electronic signature tool and drafts an e-mail to the relevant authority. E-mail contact details of the relevant authorities are prepopulated when the robot is designed, and are updated intermittently. The Drafting Bot subsequently attaches the executed opposition draft, sends the e-mail and updates the IPR Repository with the date when the opposition was filed.
The Cease-and-Desist Notice. Now that we have illustrated what the Drafting Bot can do with an opposition draft, you can imagine that the drafting of a cease-and-desist notice is an equally easy task for Software Bot. The Drafting Bot uses the draft cease-and-desist notice e-mail template previously created by the legal team and fills it in with details of UiPath IPR that are being infringed and the circumstances of the unlawful use by the third party (as identified by the Infringement Bot and entered into the IPR Repository). The legal practitioners will not be triggered for the sanity check. The UiPath Legal Team trusts their bot to send the e-mail notice to the third party, while the IP Legal Department is cc’d in the relevant email.
There are many other potential applications for the IPR Bot that the team is just starting to explore. The above is just a sneak peek into what RPA can do to improve the quality of the professional life of legal practitioners, both working in law firms or in in-house legal departments.
UiPath will continue looking into their own organization and searching for those tasks that compromise the productivity of the legal team. These are usually those tasks that are repetitive, high in volume and which require a person to make decisions only based on clearly predefined rules. These are the processes with high automation potential – processes which do not actually improve the skills of a legal practitioner, but rather take him away from doing what he is actually trained to do.