Thursday, 27 April 2017

The IP Strategy Report -- now available online

Yesterday's inaugural Managing Intellectual Property IP Strategy Forum 2017 [on which see earlier blogposts here] also provided a launch-pad for the Aistemos IP Strategy Report, prepared for the company by leading journalist Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor at the Telegraph and former Online Editor of Management Today Magazine.

The report, at 38 pages, is packed with text and tables based on the findings drawn from an extensive survey of business attitudes and awareness conducted by Aistemos between August and October 2016. It builds on the survey's findings and synthesises them within the context of the unifying theme of how to function best in a milieu that is increasingly dominated by intellectual property considerations.

You can access a copy of this report, which is free, by clicking through to the Aistemos website here

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

In praise of facts: a short thought on IP strategy

Facts must be more than
right -- they must also
be accessible by those
who have to act on them
Today's inaugural IP Strategy Forum, organised by Managing IP magazine and sponsored by Aistemos (among others), proved to be a great success, judging not only by the comments of those who had the privilege of attending but also by the fact that almost everyone stayed on to the end of what turned out to be a long, hard -- if thoroughly enjoyable -- day.

Many of those present were from IP's Big Battalions and their professional representatives, but others who made their presence felt were drawn from the banking, investment and academic sectors too.  Some were there to learn; others to meet celebrity speakers or old friends; others were there to gain some comfort from being able to share their feelings and their ideas with like-minded colleagues.

A rich and varied programme, populated by such different speakers, is a surprising place to find consensus, but there was something on which everyone was agreement -- whether talking about Industry 4.0, standard-essential patents, M&A due diligence, securitisation, valuation or anything else.  The subject of this unexpected unanimity was the need for information that was current, accurate and capable of being absorbed and understood by decision-makers who appreciated the importance of intellectual property while being unfamiliar with its detailed vocabulary and technicalities.

If, as it seems, the need for user-friendly information that can underpin the right decision is universal, it remains puzzling that generations of service providers have failed to deliver it in the manner demanded by its users.  IP analytics, as provided by Cipher and its competitors, is a discipline that has arrived late upon the scene, being a happy product of technical progress in the processing and presentation of available data.  But there remains a question of how well the legal profession and business advisers can communicate their knowledge to those who so keenly need it.  Now that we have the facts at our fingertips, it still remains to get them across.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A howler from Owler: putting the record straight

The ever-interesting community-based business insights platform Owler surprised us by issuing a competitive profile with the subject heading "Aistemos Getting Out-Blogged By PatSnap: Q1 Blog Report". The substance of the profile was that "Aistemos had no blog posts this quarter compared to 30 from PatSnap".  Readers of this weblog will know that, between January and March, we have been far from inactive.  During that period we posted 35 items on this blog.  According to our trusty abacus, 35 minus 30 leaves 5, which is the number of blogposts by which we outblogged PatSnap.

Apart from putting the record straight, we can add a couple of further comments.  

One is that the quality of a business and its competitive edge can be reflected by many different criteria, but the number of blogposts per quarter is not one that would automatically spring to our minds, any more than the number of Tweets emitted or followers attracted. 

The second is that the process of counting blogposts can be simplified and automated through such devices as RSS feeds. However, it's always a good idea to check one's conclusions against reality on the ground (or, in this case, in the blogosphere).  If an otherwise live and energetic business appears to have ceased participating in any sector of the social media or a full three months,  it would only take a moment for a human to look at the sector concerned and see if the figures truly reflect that reality.

By the way, this tale has a happy ending.  While Owler can't actually retract or correct information once it has been released, the company will be working together with Aistemos to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

Friday, 21 April 2017

IP Strategy Forum 2017: next week's agenda for your future plans

Readers of this weblog should already know all about this year's inaugural IP Strategy Forum, which we've mentioned a little while back [our earlier posts on this exciting event can be accessed here]Well, after a great deal of careful planning, the Forum will take place next week. In short, as this morning's release from Aistemos indicates:
To coincide with World IP Day on 26 April, we are hosting the inaugural IP Strategy Forum with Managing Intellectual Property, at the ETC County Hall, London.

The IP Strategy Forum features leading IP experts from major corporations and their advisers. The speaker line-up includes the Heads of IP from ARM, Philips, ABB, Qualcomm, BAE Systems and many others. We will also be releasing the Aistemos IP Strategy Report which is a study of the state of corporate awareness of IP issues.

With less than a week to go, spaces are limited, so be sure to register. Attendance for corporates is free and Aistemos have negotiated a discounted rate for external advisers.

If you are unable to make it, be sure you follow our live Twitter feed for all the latest updates.
Hope you can join us, or at least little to some very well-informed tweets via #IPStrategyForum2017.

Programme details here

Register here

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Should economic competitiveness be off-limits for patent-granting offices?

Patent Offices handle their bureaucratic
tasks well, but does that qualify them to
pitch in on economic issues too?
OxFirst is running a free webinar next week (Thursday, 20 April 2017) on "The approach of the European Patent Office to digitalization and the Internet of Things". The presenter is Professor Yann Meniere, Chief Economist at the European Patent Office. The marketing material for this webinar contains the following paragraph, which is worth thinking about:
"With the Internet of Things promising significant job creation and growth rates, the question arises what patent offices can do to promote competitiveness in the digital space ..."
In the second half of the last century, the role of patent-granting institutions began to evolve. Originally the classical national Patent Office had a purely administrative role in receiving, examining and granting (or refusing) patents, maintaining a register, collecting fees and performing a number of rudimentary judicial tasks.  To these roles were added further ones, such as the assembly of libraries of literary material and published patent records for public use and the publicising of official functions through participation in exhibitions, conferences and seminars. Matters quite unrelated to the administrative function of the Patent Office were also addressed, such as offering information and guidance on prototyping, raising of capital and licensing. However, the role of the intellectual property office in helping to formulate and implement economic policy is relatively recent.

This evolution, and its consequences, appears to have been largely unnoticed.

It may be worth asking ourselves whether it is truly appropriate for the role of any patent-granting body -- whether at national level or regionally, as in the case of the European Patent Office -- to include the promotion of competitiveness, in the digital space or elsewhere.  What if the institutional view of what constitutes competitiveness, or which is the best way of achieving it, is at odds with the position of national governments or bodies such as the European Commission? It is not beyond the wit of mankind to propound theories of competitiveness that require either the broadening of patent protection or its narrowing.  And one can also make a case for the best thing any patent-granting office can do for competitors in the marketplace is to examine, grant or reject patent applications as speedily, accurately and cheaply as man and machine can muster.

You can register for the OxFirst webinar by clicking here.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Face reality! Patents for facial recognition are on the way up

In the wake of our recent and well-received posts on the spread of patents for encryption and cryptography ["Encryption, cryptography and the current state of patents", here, and "Encryption and Enigma", here], here's a follow-up on a specific aspect of security that has been quietly gaining momentum for some while: facial recognition. With the aid of the Aistemos Cipher tool, we have put together a few facts and observations for your interest and edification.

Active Facial Recognition patent families over time

Active Facial Recognition patent families over time

• For the purposes of this blogpost, a facial recognition system is, quite simply, a computer application that is capable of identifying a person from a digital image or video;
• As the technology has evolved, its areas of application have spread from being mainly security-related to those which involve online dating, payments, greeting hotel guests, checking attendance or even to catch toilet paper thieves in China [on which see Fortune and CBS News];
• The growth of active Facial Recognition patents has been almost exponential throughout the first decade of this century, as the chart above shows.
Facial Recognition technology by country

Facial Recognition technology by country

• As is so often the case, China leads the pack by a long way, with almost as many patents as the rest of the top ten nations put together;
• Most of the other countries listed in the table above are the "usual suspects", but the inclusion of Ireland may come as something of a surprise since this small jurisdiction -- while it is known to have a strong software community -- does not normally come close to generating large numbers of patents in other software-related fields.
The biggest Facial Recognition players

The biggest Facial Recognition players

• In the boxes above, the size of the box represents the number of Facial recognition-related patents owned by each company in relation to the entire technology field in 2017, while the colour represents the extent to which that company's share of patents has increased (red = biggest increase) or decreased (green = biggest drop) between 2007-2017;
• The chart above shows a good mix of actors within the field, ranging through regular tech, imaging, automotive and aviation/defence industries. An indication of how facial recognition systems will play an increasingly important role in a variety of different industries in the future.
We do hope that you find this presentation interesting, useful or at least thought-provoking. If there are other fields in which you would like us to take a look and generate a blogpost based on what we see, do contact Aistemos [contact details can be accessed here] and let us know.

Monday, 3 April 2017

March's Aistemos blogposts: a handy summary

Each month we list and summarise the previous month's blogposts for readers who have been away or who were simply too busy to follow them in real time.  This blog lists our main posts for the recently-passed month of March.

Every one of the blogposts listed below comes with a moderated comment facility, so please feel welcome to respond to anything you read, whether you disagree with it, wish to amplify or clarify its points, or merely provide further links to relevant material.

To check each post out, just click the title:

Friday, 31 March 2017:  Encryption and Enigma: a postscript

The previous day's blogpost on patents for cryptography ("Encryption, cryptography and the current state of patents") attracted a good deal of interest. Here's an "Enigmatic" tailpiece to it.


The recent terrorist attack in London's historical Parliament zone, Westminster, has again thrown into the limelight the keen debate over personal privacy versus public security. The British government has called for decryption of messages on the perpetrator's WhatsApp account and is insistent that the law should not enable terrorists to invoke encryption as a shield for their activities.  This sudden interest suggested to us that it is time, with the assistance of Cipher, to take a look at who owns patents in this field.


Who's Who Legal (WWL) has published an encouraging item on the way things are going in IP: "Patents 2017: Trends and Conclusions", as its name suggests, takes a look at the patent scene and acknowledges that this trend is decidedly upward. The subtitle, "China and the Global Patent Landscape", reflects the now well-established fact that, whatever one may think of the quality of Chinese-originating patents and of the vagaries of Chinese business strategies for expanding patent portfolios into markets other than the vast domestic one, it is Chinese patent filing that has driven the astonishing growth in that IP sector. But what does this all mean?


A few weeks ago Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher penned some comments on the risk of failing to recognise the importance and value of rights in intangible assets, and in particular intellectual property rights ["Grasping intangibles: IP can slip through your fingers", here].  Nigel's thoughts on the topic soon became the subject of a webinar, which took place last month. You can access the recording in full via this blogpost.


The ever-restless world of money seems set for further changes that lie outside the comprehension of most people. Most of these changes relate to the increased use, if not the greater respectability, of cryptocurrencies, of which the most prominent is Bitcoin [for more on Bitcoin click here; for our recent blogpost on patents based on the blockchain principle on which Bitcoin is based, click here]This blogpost offers some insights into the ownership and distribution of patents for cryptocurrencies.


Readers of this weblog may know that Managing Intellectual Property journal (MIP) has launched its inaugural IP Strategy Forum, to be held in the historical and quite lovely surroundings of London's County Hall, on 26 April 2017.  This event is sponsored by Aistemos and we are pleased to announce that MIP has kindly agreed to register IP and R&D professionals within companies for free.


recent study on avoidable oil spillages caused by fracking in the United States was the trigger for this blogpost, compiled with the assistance of Cipher, on the state of the fracking industry in terms of patent ownership and control.

You can check out Aistemos's posts over the previous twelve months below:

Friday, 31 March 2017

Encryption and Enigma: a postscript

Arthur Scherbius
Our post yesterday on patents for cryptography ("Encryption, cryptography and the current state of patents", here) attracted a good deal of interest, not least on account of its Cipher-driven data presentation. This interest has sparked off the following tailpiece to the topic, for those who are fascinated by the history of cryptography technologies:
The infamous cryptography machine used by the Germans during the Second World War -- eventually cracked by allied cryptologists led by the great mathematician Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Academy-awarded biopic “The Imitation Game”) -- was called “The Enigma”.  It was originally patented as long ago as 1918 by German inventor Arthur Scherbius

Scherbius never lived to see the uses to which his machine was put, or to discover how the allied cryptologists got the better of it: he was killed in a horse carriage accident in 1929.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Encryption, cryptography and the current state of patents

The recent terrorist attack in London's historical Parliament zone, Westminster, has again thrown into the limelight the keen debate over personal privacy versus public security. The British government has called for decryption of messages on the perpetrator's WhatsApp account and is insistent that the law should not enable terrorists to invoke encryption as a shield for their activities.  This sudden interest suggests to us that it is time, with the assistance of Cipher, to take a look at encryption and decryption technologies in terms of who currently owns them: who holds the patents?  Much has happened in the nearly ten months since this weblog published its profile of patents generally within the cybersecurity sector (here), so the data offered below is timely.

First, let's take a look at the chart below which quantifies active Encryption patent families, giving an idea of their growth over the past decade and a half:

Active encryption patent families over time

• In cultural terms, the history of cryptography goes back to the ancient Greeks who are said to have known of ciphers.  However, modern cryptography emerged only in the 1970s, when Martin E. Hellman, a professor at Stanford, together with his students patented the approach of generating a shared key for senders and recipients across insecure channels. This became known as the Diffie-Hellman patent.

• It may be assumed that both interest in and demand for encryption have been steadily growing, judging by the steady linear growth of encryption-related patents over the past 15 years.

There are many different ways in which information can be stored and transmitted, as technologies increase the options available to public sector, commercial and domestic users. The chart below takes a look at the way patents are split between these avenues.

Active encryption patent families by application area

• Encrypted communication remains the dominant application area, as well as that which enjoys the steadiest growth;
• The popularity of disk encryption increased in the early years of this century, but patenting activity has flattened out in recent years, presumably as disks have themselves become less popular;
• Patenting in the area of cloud encryption picked up fairly late, in 2009, but has been steadily increasing ever since. This predictably reflects the increased popularity of cloud computing in general.  

So who are the leading lights in the encryption/decryption field? 
The 20 biggest encryption players

• In the chart above, the size of each box represents the number of encryption-related patents owned by the company named within it, in relation to the whole technology field in 2017.  The colour of each box represents the positive/negative change in the proportion of patents the company held between 2007-2017 (Green = Growing; Red = Reducing: see the key at the top of the chart);
• The 20 biggest players in terms of encryption or cryptography patents are almost exclusively tech giants and household names, suggesting that there may not be many, or any, eminences grises lurking behind the scenes;
• Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic and Canon –- companies with more of an emphasis on disk-related activities -- are clearly losing their share of granted patents to companies like Google and Intel, which have demonstrated a far greater commitment to a data/cloud computing focus.
• All the “losers” in terms of share are Japanese companies, which makes one wonder whether Japanese cryptography is in decline.  

Which countries hold the greatest number of encryption and decryption patents, with the potential for exercise of political clout which control of a technology can establish? The chart below is instructive.

Encryption technology by country
• The United States is the clear leader here, with more patents than the next two countries combined (China and Japan);
• There are at least two countries that are known to possess a substantial degree of expertise in encryption and decryption, but do not feature in this chart at all: Russia and Israel. 
• If the member states of the European Union are aggregated, European encryption technology would be of the same order of magnitude as that of the United States.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Patents in China: present boom, future prospects

Chinese patents are
now showing their teeth
Who's Who Legal (WWL) has published an encouraging item on the way things are going in IP: "Patents 2017: Trends and Conclusions", as its name suggests, takes a look at the patent scene and acknowledges that this trend is decidedly upward. The subtitle, "China and the Global Patent Landscape", reflects the now well-established fact that, whatever one may think of the quality of Chinese-originating patents and of the vagaries of Chinese business strategies for expanding patent portfolios into markets other than the vast domestic one, it is Chinese patent filing that has driven the astonishing growth in that IP sector.

While the WWL piece focuses only on patents, readers may want to reflect on the contrasting fate of different intellectual property rights in the world's most populous jurisdiction. Patents are now viewed much more positively than they were a decade or so ago, and this is demonstrated both by the country's increasing commitment to their protection and by a momentous increasing volume of patent infringement litigation -- a sign of confidence in the system if ever there was one, since patent litigation is an expensive business and no sane patent owner willingly throws bad money after good by suing infringers where there is no reasonable prospect of success. In contrast with patents, both trade marks and copyrights appear to be less easy to guard against the unwanted attention of counterfeiters and copyists. This may be because, while Chinese applicants are responsible for the great majority of local patents, the bulk of desirable brands and copyright works that can be most profitably exploited by unlicensed third parties originate from outside the country.

One thing that the WWL feature does not mention at all is patent analytics. Developments over the past few years have occurred more or less without the assistance of the sophisticated tools, of which Aistemos' Cipher is one, that are designed to assist businesses and investors in generating and understanding available patent and commercial data at the level necessary for taking the right market views and making the right calls at those critical junctures where ever-changing technologies meet ever-evolving markets. Prospects for future growth in patent-related investment and product development can only be enhanced once the power of analytics is harnessed to prudent human judgment. With the benefit of analytics, the better and more effective use of patents in encouraging and protecting investment in innovation can only be enhanced, both in China and beyond.

You can read Patents 2017: Trends and Conclusions in full by clicking here.