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August Carnival of Trust

Posted in Legal News

Welcome to the August 2009 Carnival of Trust.  The Carnival of Trust is a monthly, traveling review of the last month’s best posts related to various aspects of trust in the business world.  It is much like the weekly Blawg Reviews that I post links to and have hosted (click here and here), but those generally contain far more than ten links.  My job this month was to pick those ten posts for you and provide an introduction to each post that makes you want to click through and read more.  For my regular Chicago IP Litigation blog readers, this will be a slight departure from the case analysis format you have come to expect, but very similar to my earlier stints hosting the Carnival of Trust and Blawg Review. 

It is the trust that matters, not the title.

At IP Think Tank, Duncan Bucknell added to the recent debate in the patent community about whether the IP function should move into the corporate C-level suite, adding a Chief Intellectual Property Office to the ranks of CEO, COO, CTO, CIO, CLO and CMO – click here and here to read Bucknell’s posts. Following up on comments by Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps and Rockwell Collins’ Bill Elkington, Bucknell explained that the issue is not the name, but in a company having an IP champion that earns the organization’s trust and respect, whatever title that person is given:

You have to build your own credibility within your organisation as someone who reliably gets the job done.  As you build trust with those senior to you, then your (ongoing?) commitment to communicating the value that can be added using intellectual property will become more prominent. 

Make some (achievable) promises and then deliver.  The more that you do this, the more credibility will be given to the IP function, and the greater awareness those senior to you will have.  Some would call such a person an ‘IP Evangelist’ – I would say that they are just doing their job.  People executing on difficult tasks bit by bit has always been what success is about.

As usual, Bucknell’s analysis is excellent. A person’s respect within an organization is at least as important as their title.

Running an organization is all about building trust.

The patent community focused much of its attention this week on the confirmation hearings for David J. Kappos, nominee for Director of the US Patent & Trademark Office. Click here for Patentability’s summary of the hearing highlights and here for a copy of Kappos’s statement at Patently-O. The hearings were relatively short, likely because there appears to be widespread trust in Kappos’s background and abilities. And although much of the hearing focused on procedural patent office issues, Kappos showed he deserved that trust by focusing his statement on his plans to earn trust with all of the stakeholders in the patent world. He specifically addressed concerns that his corporate background could disadvantage individual inventors or academics:

I am mindful that the USPTO serves the interests of ALL innovators in this country, small and large, corporate and independent, academic and applied, and – most importantly — the public interest. While I have spent my career to date at a large corporate enterprise, I am familiar with the concerns and issues of all USPTO constituents – including small and independent inventors, the venture and start-up community, public interest groups, the patent bar and many others – and will reach out to all of them.

Kappos addressed his plans to build trust with his employees at the USPTO:

I am mindful of the incredible dedication of the thousands of USPTO employees, and the essential role they play to the success of the US innovation system. I will work every day with the USPTO employees and the unions that represent them to establish strong, positive relationships grounded in professional treatment for these workers producing work product based on professional judgment.

He addressed the need to build global trust and relationships:

I am acutely mindful that innovation today is global and that IP policy is of paramount importance, not only in our country, but also in the EU and Japan, in China, India, Brazil and many other developing countries. I will use my international experience and my understanding of global IP trends to help this Administration represent, advance, and protect the interests of American innovators in the global arena and to lead the world in developing strong, balanced, inclusive intellectual property systems that advance the well-being of all participants.

And he addressed the need to build trust with the Administration he seeks to join and the American people the Administration serves:

Finally, I am mindful that the office for which I am being considered, working as part of Secretary Locke’s team and within the Administration’s agenda, must be intensely focused on how to serve the American people at this time of economic uncertainty.

Gene Quinn provides proof that Kappos’s trust-building efforts worked in his IPWatchdog post about the hearings (click here to read the post):

In all, what Kappos said was certainly reassuring, and he should have absolutely no problem getting confirmed.  If he does stay mindful of the needs of all those who use the USPTO, small, large and in between, and the interests of the diverse industries who sometimes need contradictory things in order to thrive, he will not only be a good leader, but he will be an exceptional leader and might really reform the Patent Office into the entity it can and should be in order to foster economic development and job creation in the US. 

Walter Cronkite personified trust.

The passing of Walter Cronkite last month does not have much to do with intellectual property, but I could not do this month’s Carnival of Trust without mentioning Cronkite. To me and so many others, Walter Cronkite embodied trust. Cronkite was the person so many turned to in times of national tragedy, like war, and in times of national triumph, like the Apollo XI moon landing. Naturally, Cronkite’s passing caused numerous reviews of present-day news personalities and almost as many questions about whether times have changed so much that we cannot have another Cronkite. In the Chicago Reader blog, Whet Moser decries a poll that found the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart to be the most trusted newsperson on the air today – click here to read the post. Frankly, the poll does not appear to be scientific and, therefore, not very trustworthy. But I have trouble arguing with the results. I love news. Three newspapers are delivered to my door every morning, and I read each one. Okay, I at least skim each one. I grew up watching the nightly news, but I now finding myself turning to Stewart for news programming more frequently than I turn to Couric, Gibson or Williams. I like and even trust all three. But Stewart has built a more powerful trust with me by calling out the problems with the 24-hour news cycle and by making me laugh. Stewart has some obvious biases, but he makes sure they are obvious and he creates even more trust by poking fun at both sides of most issues. Truth and laughter are powerful trust builders. 

Cronkite deserves more than one entry in this Carnival, and the second comes from the Carnival of Trust’s own Charles Green at his Trust Matters blog – click here to read the post. Green breaks down the components of The Most Trusted Man in America: 1) honesty; 2) selflessness; and 3) integrity. Green also explains that Cronkite’s calm, baritone voice reinforced each of the three characteristics. I could not agree more. Hearing Cronkite’s voice is an instant dose of trust.

For those not fortunate enough to develop their own "personal," trust relationship with Cronkite through his news programming, check out this NPR obituary to get some measure of the man and his history.

Credentials can generate and regulate trust.

At the Mediation Channel, Diane Levin makes a strong argument that legal mediators need to develop an accreditation system – click here to read the post. And IP mediator Victoria Pynchon responds at her Settle It Now blog with her own arguments for credentialing mediators for the good of mediators, the mediating parties and society’s trust in the mediation system as a whole – click here to read the post.

How can companies build trust?

Building trust can be a slow and sometimes uncertain process. At his Touch Points blog, Steve Finikiotis cites a study suggesting that trust in corporation in the United States and other developed countries is at its lowest point ever – click here to read the post. In order to remedy the decreased trust, Finikiotis provides four trust building steps: 1)Focus on understanding and meeting customers’ preferences; 2) Under-promise and over-deliver; 3) Transparency; and 4) Encourage and foster feedback. 

And although Finikiotis did not focus on this example, last month Amazon showed just how those steps do build trust.  Amazon was accused of copyright infringement when a digital book seller used a self-service program to sell unauthorized copies of several books, including George Orwell’s 1984, to Amazon Kindle users. When Amazon learned of the alleged infringement, it erased the books from its customers Kindle accounts. As you might expect, there was a public outcry. Kindle users were upset to learn that books they purchased and felt they owned could be removed from their devices and accounts. And Amazon sprang into action following Finikiotis’s four steps: 

  1. Amazon listened to its customers’ frustration at having the books removed and the possibility of future removals;
  2. Amazon replaced the books;
  3. Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, issued the following very direct and honest apology:

    This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos

Founder & CEO

Amazon.com

      4.    Through its response and apology, Amazon fostered feedback.

Amazon turned a negative situation into a very positive one. As a Kindle owner (and lover), I was very happy with the response and it has made me an even more loyal Kindle customer. And others agree. For example, Amazon’s response helped convince PublicOrgTheory blog to go ahead with a Kindle purchase – click here to read the post. And In Propria Persona has qualms with copyright law, but saw the apology as good customer service and said it improves the likelihood of him purchasing a Kindle – click here to read the post. Finally, the Below the Line marketing blog says that "Amazon shows how to apologize," and notes that customer comments on the Amazon site have been largely positive since the apology; proof that Finikiotis’s steps work. Nice job to both Finikiotis and Amazon.

And with that story of trust done well, thank you for reading, whether you are a regular reader of this blog or a Carnival of Trust groupie.