Thursday, 9 June 2016

After the party -- the prognosis: moving on from IPBC Global 2016

The party's over. The Great and the Good from the world of intellectual property-based business, having gathered together for three days of intensive thinking, discussion and networking in this year's Intellectual Property Business Congress (IPBC Global 2016), have now returned to their respective bases of operation. As memories of Barcelona fade, participants are left to ponder on what they made of the event, and how much it taught them.

Many of those present have already given insights and made some perceptive comments during the course of the Congress via Twitter (hashtag #IPBCGlobal) and other social media.  Others are still doing so.  In this vein here's a personal view from Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher:
IPBC Global 2016 was a conference in two parts -- what was said and unsaid in the formal programme, and the conversations and meetings in the lobby and the hallways. These are my brief reflections on the two, and a common thread between them.

Intellectual property and its role and importance to business is going through a rapid period of evolution. The IPBC programme addressed this from all angles.

Theoretically, it asked whether IP was an asset class at all. I was distressed to learn that the prevailing view is that it is not (thank you Murali Dharan, CEO of IPValue and long-time friend, for spoiling my day).

Geographically, the programme studied the massive forces at play in the US, Europe and China. Here’s the potted summary: the US are in a mess. Patent quality and patent misuse are a problem, but there was a near unanimous view that reforms and judicial interventions had gone too far and that the US innovation economy was weakened as a result. This provides Europe, now with its shiny new UPC, with an opportunity to lead. I have to say that some of the messaging sounded like Europe will be a great place to litigate patents, please visit. This is not my idea of the tourism we should want to encourage.

Financially, the focus is on FRAND. While this could be misunderstood to be a specialist SEP (standards) topic, it’s not. The thesis is that litigation is an inefficient was to determine royalties. On the other hand, there is near universal agreement that a reasonable royalty was the solution to the vast majority of IP disputes. The challenge of course is to find a mechanism for allocating an aggregate reasonable royalty of a product across all the relevant rights owners. The starting point has to be acceptance that shouting louder does not mean that you receive more than your fair share.

Strategically, it was good to see the conference debate all IP rights, and the importance of integrated IP strategies. IPBC has consistently given a platform to the new breed of CIPOs (Chief IP Officers) and their increased number and importance is correlated to the increased role of IP as part of boardroom decision-making. 
I was pleased to see the increased attention on trade secrets. While there are new laws in both the US and Europe, the issue has been with us for years [Aistemos has manifested a major interest in trade secrecy management issues, here]. If companies do not look after their secrets, don’t expect the legal system to step in. As a management challenge this is so hard to get right, but really important.

Economically, there was still vast amounts of airtime for the NPEs. And a fair bit of gloating about their demise. The US Supreme Court in Alice has destroyed a number of PIPCOs. PTAB Inter Partes Reviews have made it easy to invalidate patents. Injunctions are almost a thing of the past. My views on all this don’t change. In 10 years time, only historians will remember the significance of the NPE label. As we develop more efficient licensing models, all owners will be equal -- and the current Orwellian model that inventor owners should somehow be treated differently will be a thing of the past.

Outside the sessions is a different ecosystem altogether. Organisers IAM do a great job of bringing together 500 senior IP executives, representing the largest IP organisations on the planet. This is not a gathering of people wanting to learn what may happen next. They are the group who define what happens now. Deals are done, alliances made, experiences shared. As Dan McCurdy (RPX) commented "the level of experience of IPBC attendees is such that any speaker could be replaced with any delegate”.

Which brings me to the common thread. The IP community understands that evolution needs to be slow and steady. This means collaboration on a global scale. It means knowing what’s going on. That is why Cipher has a role to play. The world needs to have a trusted source of business intelligence, to enable decisions to be made in the context of known facts and trends. In a market where many of the deals are made out of sight, Cipher’s role is to shine a light on the data that is available.

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