Tuesday 16 June 2015

IPBC Global 2015: Conference report VII

The Tuesday afternoon programme for this year's Intellectual Property Business Conference (IPBC Global 2015) was dedicated to breakout sessions. This blogger attended one on the theme of "New corporate realities". As the organisers explained: "As IP moves up the corporate agenda, it is vital that in-house groups develop strategies to meet growing expectations. This session will look at how to meet the challenge".

Cynthia Murphy (Senior vice president, Thomson Reuters IP Solutions) moderated this session, which featured in-housers Joe Chernesky (Senior vice president, intellectual property and innovation, Kudelski SA), Michael LoCascio (Director of global IP strategy, BASF Catalysts), Stefan Tamme (Vice president, IP strategy, Rambus) and Ben Wang (Head of patents, Unilever China). 

Stefan opened by speaking on Rambus's IP assets and their role in enhancing the end-user experience of electronic systems.  His team manages a portfolio of 2,100 patent assets, developing it strategically through the product life cycles of both Rambus and its clients. How has IP fared in the past 10 years? It has always been an IP-driven company, starting by licensing its original patents. Now the company indulges in all sorts of monetisation activities. The company has spent around 40% of its revenues on R&D.

Joe then spoke on Kudelski, a 60-year old Swiss company that spends heavily on R&D in the portable recording device sector. Digital TV and video is its main core business, where the company is a lead player in conditional access; it is also a major player in TV box-tops. Then there is a cyber-security business, particularly for banks.  Finally there is a ski data technology operation. Kudelski also looks for new technologies to license out. Joe is responsible for protecting the company against the threat of competitors' patents, in markets in which competing products can be cheaper by a factor of ten. "IP organisations have to be very forward-thinking these days", he observed.

Michael was next, giving an account of his role at BASF Catalysts. BASF is a vast enterprise, split within 14 divisions of which Catalysts is one. The division has around 1,200 patents and licenses in in order to supplement its own technologies, but doesn't really license out much, in a highly competitive market in which BASF now seeks to conduct a proactive IP strategy. 

Ben, on behalf of Unilever's China operations, spoke about his recruitment and also about his experiences as a lawyer in an environment in which his colleagues had managed quite well without a lawyer at all prior to his arrival. How long did it take Ben to get the company's scientists and marketing colleagues to align themselves to Ben's IP notions? He explained that, because there was so little knowledge of IP, his colleagues were really interested in finding out about it and grasped it very fast.

Cynthia then encouraged the panellists to speak about their involvement in developing corporate strategy, their engagement with board members and major share-holders, how to earn trust and the need to manage expectations and deliver on them. The key word, as the session's title suggests, is "reality".

The panellists were then asked what were their top three must-haves for a top-rate corporate IP function. Essentially this boiled down to quality business data, filing expertise, scientific knowledge, excellent products, the ability to deliver rational business decisions, good customer relations ...

What are the best ways of educating business colleagues as to the importance of intellectual property? Regularly-meeting IP committees were recommended, each one including business and R&D people as well as the IP folk: this starts a gradual process of spreading knowledge and interest concerning intellectual property throughout an organisation. Dealing with people face-to-face rather than by email can also be effective -- even with customers, the authorities etc.  Rotating business staff in and out of IP roles is another option.

Benchmarking of in-house IP functions was also discussed: high level benchmarking was agreed to be of little use, and there are problems of comparability in that performance cannot be measured in terms of quantity of output, but rather by its quality.

What were the panellists' biggest challenges and opportunities? What gets them excited and keeps them awake?  Answers included coping with constant change as the pendulum swings between stronger and weaker protection, (on the non-IP side) on how the company can evolve in its product markets, how to be more creative in deal structures and dispute settlement, watching projects unfold, coping with phone calls from distant time zones, 

No comments: