Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Swayed in Sweden? Making the case for Industry 4.0

IoT: your chicken can be remotely defrosted 
and roasted. Eat it yourself, or arrange 
for consumption to be "out-sauced" ...
Last week this weblog posted this preview of the then-imminent CIP Forum. Well, the Forum has been and gone -- but not without leaving its mark. Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher, who was honoured to be one of the presenters in this prestigious invitation-only event, has given us this short note:
Gothenburg can proudly claim to be the home of European IP Strategy. Over the past three days, Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg hosted the CIP Forum to debate the IP challenges of Convergence, otherwise referred to as 'IoT' (Internet of Things) and Industry 4.0 [incidentally, Bo Heiden, Deputy Director of CIP, is the keynote speaker at the Aistemos Party on 20 October]. 
The panels were led by European corporates such as Ericsson, Nokia, Sanvik, Volvo, Assa Abloy, Philips and Nestlé, to name just a fewThese are a few of the key messages that emerged from the Forum:
* Not many companies have an IoT strategy (some 60%, it seems, do not), but they probably need one [and they should at least ask themselves if they do, ideally on a regular basis, since the relevance of IoT is driving it into sectors that hitherto may have considered themselves too remote from it];

* Many of the key challenges relating to connectivity, data aggregation and analytics, interoperability and security are unfamiliar [allied to this is the prospect that, where such familiarity exists within a company, it does not do so at the right level within its decision-making hierarchy];

* IoT points to entirely new business models, not just hooking things to the internet [think iTunes, rather than ordering CDs online];
* We are in the early days of IoT, which are still testing out the scope of technical possibility rather than focusing mainly on consumer utility [ie "what can we do with it?" rather than "who will buy into it if we do it?"];

* The IoT ecosystems are going to be larger and more complex and require greater collaboration [at least for the foreseeable future, though streamlining and simplifying IoT ecosystems will eventually be expected to reap rewards];

* IP is going to underpin the new business models and there is currently a patent arms race [evidence of this can be seen in the hot-off-the-press Aistemos Industry 4.0 Report];

* Ericsson, Qualcomm and others have announced Avanci, a fresh approach to patent pools, in the hope that FRAND licensing becomes the norm [If properly handled, FRAND licensing can make technologies from many sources equally available to all, facilitating the development of shared technical standards and reducing the wastage incurred by patent infringement litigation. But the key word here is "If" ...];

* While IoT will drive more standardisation, the existence of IP rights will remain of critical importance as a means to protect competitive advantage [IP also enables competitors to differentiate their products and services while still sharing technical standards];

* The stand-out difference between IoT and previous technology revolutions is data-centricity: however, many of the ownership and control issues are not well understood by suppliers or individuals [in both its raw and its refined forms, data is a notoriously different commodity to harness, particularly in areas of interface between different skill sets].
Above all beware of jargon: IoT is not one thing, but many. It includes Connectivity, Sensors, Cloud Computing, Robotics, 3D Printing -- to name but a few.
Nigel Swycher's PowerPoint frames, from the session on "Innovation Information and Analytics", can be checked out here.

The next iteration of this invitation-only event will take place in 2018.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

More value, less cost: IP due diligence, unexpurgated

Having missed the webinar, Nipper was
delighted to catch the recording ...
Regular readers of this weblog -- and we are pleased to say that they are increasing in number -- will recall that last Wednesday, 21 September, was the day that Aistemos held a webinar examining IP analytics in the context of due diligence. For this purpose, Aistemos CEO Nigel Swycher teamed up with guest speaker Justin Watts (IP Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer).

Good news for those who were agog to hear what Nigel and Justin had to say but were unable to do so in real time is that the webinar has been recorded and is available in full, together with the accompanying PowerPoint visuals, to anyone who takes the opportunity to click here. The recording lasts a few seconds short of 31 minutes and it's well worth a listen.

There's also an accompanying case study, which we posted on this weblog last month and which readers can enjoy at their leisure.

IP analytics enthusiasts who happen to be webinar junkies will be glad to know that there are other recorded events for them to sample. These include the following recent webinars:

* Cost management: how many is enough? (On cost management in the context of devising and implementing a patent strategy, here)

* Waterfall analysis (using Cipher to uncover competitors' patent filing strategies, here)

* Patents: at the heart of the information revolution (introducing Cipher as a tool for uncovering, aggregating, analysing and visualising patent data, here)

You can discover more about Cipher here.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Wake up and smell the fertilizer? Big changes ahead for agribusiness

High tech solutions have taken much of the
sweat out of the modern farmer's routine
Agribusiness is big business for several reasons. Most obviously, there are over 7 billion people on this planet and they all consume food that someone, somewhere has grown.  Producing more food, better food and cheaper food is therefore a market that will likely continue for as long as the human race continues to exist.  Food production generates research into other areas too, such as making crops resistant to pests, diseases and the vicissitudes of the weather. Humans are not the only consumers either: domestic animals must be fed, pastured and generally well looked-after too.

This Cipher Snapshot focuses on agribusiness and on the continuing consolidation of the field as the number of players shrinks further. Who owns the patents, and where? How is the balance of power tilted in markets for seeds and fertilisers?  Who are today's successes -- and tomorrow's possible winners?  To help assist you in forming your own opinion and drawing your own conclusions, read on ...


The ‘Big Six’ to be the ‘Fantastic Four’?
• Agrochemical companies increasingly patent in seed technologies
• M&A activity would strengthen companies’ territorial coverage
• DuPont’s and Monsanto’s presence in NUE technologies is very strong
A lot has changed since humans began farming back in 10,000 BC or thereabouts. At the beginning of the previous century an overwhelming proportion of the global population were farmers. In contrast, agriculture today only makes up for about 4% of employment in developed nations.

Scientific developments in crop protection have been especially striking. While the seed market was dominated by 30 companies back in the 1970s, today just three companies -– Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta -– control the majority of the seed market. Together with Bayer, Dow Chemical and BASF they occupy an even stronger position in the overall crop protection market. Few industries have undergone such a rapid consolidation, but the market is going to become even more concentrated as ‘the Big Six’ are about to become four.

A lot can be understood of the current playing field by taking a historical IP view. Breakthroughs in crop protection research during the '70s coincided with the introduction of stronger intellectual property rights leading to companies claiming ownership of new evolutionary directions in gene expressions. These developments marked the start of an intensifying M&A activity in the agribusiness sector.

The first wave of M&A in the 70s-80s was mainly led by pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies. However, the largest structural consolidation begun in the '90s when chemical companies saw pesticide sales declining due to new genetically modified seeds. Chemical companies Dow, Bayer and BASF were the leading acquirers of several seed companies. The trend continues as seen in Figure 1 with seed technology patent portfolios growing larger and faster than agrochemical portfolios since 2000.

Over the past year, three major M&A deals have been disclosed, all involving at least one of the ‘the Big Six’; DuPont and Dow Chemical are merging; ChemChina is acquiring Syngenta; and Bayer is in the process of acquiring Monsanto. Figure 2 shows the portfolio size of these potential M&A cases relevant to agrochemical and seed technologies. If all were to get regulatory approval, it would put Bayer Monsanto in a proprietary throne both in seed technologies and agrochemicals taking the lead over what is left of the Big Six.

From a technological perspective the merger of agrochemical and seed companies has undoubtedly been a strong trend, but what led to these M&As to emerge? Part of the answer may lie in the companies’ geographical patent coverage.

Figure 3 displays the companies’ territorial coverage. ChemChina and Bayer have a relatively low US coverage and will -- with their acquisitions of Syngenta and Monsanto -- respectively gain a stronger US coverage. DuPont and Dow have a fairly similar profile with the exception of DuPont’s strong US coverage and Dow’s strong presence in APAC. Clearly there are some dissimilarities to synergise and leverage.

While diving into the past and present industry developments sets the current scene, the future also tells a compelling story. The genetic modification technology field of increasing the ability of plants to absorb nitrogen (NUE) is deemed a highly potent solution to a global agricultural productivity and waste problem. In Figure 4, nine companies -– five seed, three agrochemicals and one fertiliser –- are analysed in relation to NUE in a landscape view showing relative growth and size. What stands out is the large presence of “the Big Six”. Especially Monsanto and DuPont show large shares in the technology with one increasing its share and the other decreasing.

If genetically modifiable NUE becomes commercially viable in the near future, the fertiliser companies will be lagging behind. With a technology that will reduce the need for their products, it looks like history could be repeating itself –- only this time with fertiliser companies.

This is a slightly amended version of a post that appeared last month on the Aistemos website, here.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Converging on Gothenburg: plenty of IP in the CIP Forum

CIP is the Center for Intellectual Property at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Based on the university's School of Business, Economics and Law, it enjoys the support of the Chalmers University of Technology which co-founded it back in 2001. The biennial CIP Forum is CIP's flagship event, the next one starting this week (the Forum runs from 25 to 27 September).

Describing itself as an event where CIP Partners, colleagues, alumni, and invited guests gather to address the key industry, university, and policy challenges of the transformation to a knowledge economy, the Forum's focus is on sharing innovative ideas, research, and practical experiences among global actors. As CIP explains:
"A blend of theory and practice is employed to bridge the gap between strategy and policy and encourage critical reflection in a world where business and public policy are both in transition. The inclusion of CIP graduate students in the event allows the next generation to voice their opinions through the unfiltered lens of the beginner’s mind. A key goal ... is to transform the dialogue into action through new initiatives together with CIP Partners, academia, and policy makers ..."
This year's event focuses on the theme of convergence from both an industry and university perspective through three interrelated, convergent focal areas:
  • Industry Focus – Digitization and the Internet of Things: The Convergence of Technology and Business Models
  • Industry-University Focus – Building Professional Partnerships: The Convergence of Industrial and Academic Capabilities
  • University Focus – Beyond Tech Transfer: The Convergence of Research and Innovation
Again, CIP explains:
"The event will discuss challenges, trends, and specific management and policy issues that characterize the difficulties of convergence for industry and universities through plenary, break-out, workshop, and round-table sessions at different levels of focus, including policy, strategy, and operational levels. Participation is based on invitation, where the specific sessions are designed in collaboration with CIP partner organizations and board members as well as the key interests of the invited participants. The goal of the event is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the key convergence issues by leading global policy makers, executives, and experts in an open environment where all participants have an opportunity to partake in the dialogue".
One of the features in this year's programme touches on IP analytics, and -- if you are heading to Gothenburg to participate -- you can attend it this coming Sunday. The session looks like this:
1330 - 1700 Innovation Information and Analytics
We live in a global world [this appears to be the only kind presently available; square worlds have been out of stock for some years now] with access to an overwhelming amount of information, but do we have the information we need and the analytical capabilities to find the right information and understand its strategic implications? Are we even asking the right questions? This session will take a critical look at the requirements, opportunities, and challenges facing innovation decision-makers in their search for better information and analytics and also discuss how artificial intelligence can support creative and innovative outcomes.

Moderator: Henric Rhedin, Board Member, ASTP-Proton and Business Developer, CIP
Nigel Swycher, CEO, Aistemos
Terry Adams, Assistant VP for Intellectual Property, Nestle
Hanns Hallesius, Head of Group Intellectual Property, Electrolux
Julian Nolan, CEO, Iprova
Aistemos is delighted to be represented among the Forum's illustrious roster of speakers, and excited to be engaging in discussion with the corporate heads of three very different enterprises, spanning leading food brands, electrical and electronic products and artificial intelligence. We look forward to learning from all participants and hope to be able to share some of our thoughts with readers of this weblog in due course. Oh, and if you are attending the Forum, do please take the chance to say hello to Nigel Swycher and tell him what you think about IP analytics and where it's going.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

IP in Africa: a golden opportunity to make an impact?

Thanks to Managing Intellectual Property, support for intellectual property education in Africa has been given quite an airing this week. The journal's blog carried this feature by Kingsley Egbuonu on how a treasure trove of over 800 IP practitioner and text books found their way from Holborn, London, to Africa University, Zimbabwe, where the WIPO/ARIPO IP masters programme is held. 

Despite its vast size, reserves of valuable raw materials and potential for growth, Africa is regrettably remote from almost every sort of large-scale intellectual property activity. Indeed, even mythical creatures such as trolls and unicorns have featured more regularly on this weblog than the so-called Dark Continent, though it is teeming with youthful vigour, creativity and enthusiasm.

This blog team is delighted that so many intellectual property tomes have found their way to a destination where such resources are in short supply -- but books, of and by themselves, do not constitute an education.  Without regular contact and exchanges of ideas at governmental, corporate and personal levels, all the literature in the world will change nothing. 

The importance of establishing ongoing input into the way our African colleagues perceive and use intellectual property rights is not limited to routine commercial and legal matters like registration, licensing or infringement.  It extends to the aspects of IP that don't get so much publicity since they feature little or not at all in statutes, law reports, case notes and journal articles. Here we refer to topics such as portfolio management and strategic IP planning, due diligence, securitisation, tax-efficient royalty planning and, since we are now in the 21st century, the use of IP analytics in assembling and interpreting the information that is necessary or at least helpful in doing so much of this.

Where IP practice is not as extensive or as conceptually entrenched as it now is in the Americas, Europe and much of the Asia-Pacific zone, the printed literature we send and the ideas we raise may at least be received by colleagues whose minds are still open, who can conceive of doing things differently and who may be more amenable to the many advantages that can be obtained by combining publicly available patent and other IP data with the powerful software that permits its interpretation and visualisation.

If you have any books that you would like to donate to law libraries in Africa, please contact Kingsley Egbuonu

Thursday, 15 September 2016

DSC disruption? Close shaves and cutting-edge patents

It's not just advertising
standards that have changed
Recent developments in the lucrative male grooming market have caught the headlines for many reasons. However, little attention has been given to the spread of patents that lie beneath the surface of the literally cut-throat competition that drives technological progress in a market that is not only global but has the extra attraction of products that their users must regularly replace.

Deploying the Cipher patent analytics tool, we take a look below at some of the market's salien features. Here's our report:
Unilever enters the razor market with acquisition of Dollar Shave Club
• Small number of companies dominate the razor market and patent landscape
• Dollar Shave Club (DSC) are disrupting the market, but are exposed to IP risks
• Incumbents are very litigious and have very broad geographic coverage
• DSC under Unilever’s control creates a fascinating patent “balance-of-power”
More innovation and patents does not always lead to remarkably different products or disruption. It does, however, offer another way of stopping or slowing down competition. A good case in point is the razor market, exemplified by Gillette and Dollar Shave Club, which recently made headlines when they were acquired by Unilever.

For a long time, the razor market has been a good example of an oligopoly – a market controlled by a small number of companies with high barriers to entry and therefore typically high margins. P&G’s Gillette and Edgewell’s Wilkinson Sword/Schick are the main incumbents. This industry has been driven by high R&D investments leading to well-known features and ever more advanced razors (for better or worse). Equally well-known are the marketing efforts also contributing to keeping competition out and margins high.

Challenging the incumbents and going for the 21 billion dollar male grooming market is start-up Dollar Shave Club (DSC) who launched with a low-price razor and a subscription-based business model. With just three years after its launch, DSC now sells around 15% of all razor cartridges in the US. In July 2016 Unilever bought the highly successful start-up in an effort to enter the razor market.

Although DSC is growing rapidly in market share, disrupting the norm and setting a new standard (Gillette has since launched their own subscription solution) the patent balance-of-power is completely favoured to one side. Gillette is a powerhouse and DSC does not own any patents. In December 2015, Gillette launched a lawsuit against DSC claiming that their products “Humble Twin”, “4X” and “Executive” were all infringing a patent used in Gillette’s “Mach3”, “Venus” and “Fusion” razors. So although the market might be ripe for disruption, the incumbents have the ability to defend themselves using IP to protect their high margins. This is the focus of this analysis.

Figure 1 shows Gillett’s domination in the market, owning 50% of the patents within razor technologies. Energizer is second, which is perhaps surprising. Energizer bought Wilkinson Sword and Schick in 2003; it spun-off Edgewell Personal Care in 2015 which owns the two razor brands, but the patents appear to be split between the two and jointly they have 27% of the patents. BIC and Unilever have 12% and 11% respectively. So how has the share developed over time? Figure 2 sheds some light on the companies’ patenting activities as a proxy for innovation activities.

Since 2005 we see a clear trend of Energizer decreasing its patenting activity while Gillette ramped up its activity until 2010 where they also appear to be declining, although still consistently filing more than the rest of the competition. However, BIC are on track to file more than Gillette as there has been a surge in patenting in recent years, which might be surprising as many might think of them as populating the disposable low-tech niche in the market. It will be interesting to see how the incumbents react, since they can clearly flex their muscles against new entrants with little or no patents, like DSC.

Figure 3 outlines litigation activity among the main players and we can clearly see that the DSC lawsuit was not a one-off reaction. The incumbents have been actively asserting their patents for a long time, with Gillette instigating more than 30 lawsuits against large and small players.

And finally, Figure 4 shows us the impressive geographic coverage by the main players, indicating that the protection of key markets for sales and manufacturing is a high priority. This is apparent with BIC, which also has extensive coverage in places like Greece and Italy.

So, although there might only be limited technical advances with disruptive swings in market share, the incumbents have built a very strong position and will continue to fight to keep it that way. It will be very interesting to see how the dynamic changes with DSC under Unilever’s umbrella –- but they should be ready for a possible a patent fight.
This report can also be accessed on the Aistemos website here.  For more examples of Cipher-based analysis, click here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Patent litigation and damages in the US: cause for migration?

The Final Report of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology Patent Damages Workshop (UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2823658) has been written up for publication in a forthcoming issue of the Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal. If you don't see that journal and can't wait to get your hands on the report, the good news is that you can access it via the increasingly invaluable Social Science Research Network -- better known by its initials SSRN, here.

Put together by Stuart J. H. Graham (Georgia Institute of Technology, Scheller College of Business), Peter S. Menell (University of California, Berkeley, School of Law), Carl Shapiro (University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business) and Timothy Simcoe (Boston University, Questrom School of Business; NBER), the Final Report is a commendably succinct 22 page document. According to its abstract:
The determination of patent damages lies at the heart of patent law and policy [it does, if you are calculating whether it's worth suing for damages or settling a claim -- but patent law and policy have more than one heart: for others, it's issues of patent-eligibility.  Others focus on cost, patent quality or scope of protection], yet it remains one of the most contentious topics in this field, particularly as regards the calculation of a reasonable royalty [it seems that, in the US, it's patent damages that influence calculation of a reasonable royalty while, in other countries where licensing is more prevalent than court-awarded damages, it's reasonable royalty rates that influence patent infringement awards]. 
In March 2016, the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology convened a workshop of leading “insiders” (in-house counsel, litigators (from both the assertion and defense sides), patent licensing professionals, and testifying expert witnesses) and academics (both law professors and economists) to clarify areas of consensus and disagreement regarding the treatment of patent damages [the participants and the discussion were almost exclusively US-oriented, even though companies such as Apple, Microsoft and IBM have extensive experience of patent damages issues on a far wider basis]. This report summarizes the discussion, key findings, and ramifications for patent case management.
It is no secret that the scale of patent infringement litigation in the United States appears to have dipped since its peak in 2013.  Many reasons have been offered for this and it may be only with the benefit of hindsight that we can truly appreciate the impact (or otherwise) of each of them.  

No-one has yet seriously suggested that the dip in US-based patent infringement litigation may be reflected by the settlement of multi-jurisdictional patent disputes in jurisdictions outside the US and, at present, it seems unlikely that this factor is playing a significant part in drawing disputes towards the calmer waters of Western Europe or to some of the more sophisticated jurisdictions within the Asia-Pacific region.  It may however be worth watching for the development of an incipient trend if complaints regarding the efficacy of the US patent system and the closely-scrutinised decisions of its courts begin to take a toll.

Monday, 12 September 2016

"More value, less cost" -- and even more value!

By now, many readers know that our next webinar, "More value, less cost in corporate transactions", takes place on Wednesday, 21 September [details of content and registration are available from the webinar website, and from our earlier blogpost].  

We have an update on the contributors: Justin Watts, a leading intellectual property practitioner and a partner in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, has been confirmed as guest speaker.  Apart from having a stellar reputation that spans both litigation and transactional work, Justin is President of the UK Group of the AIPPI -- the world's leading organisation dedicated to the protection of intellectual property. 

Justin will be teaming up with Aistemos CEO and founder Nigel Swycher. For those of you who have not yet heard him, Justin's views are always worth listening to, being supported by years of experience and a lively, creative perspective on all manner of IP issues.  

Do join us -- and Justin -- on 21 September, if you can!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Due diligence:so essential, so easily overlooked

Due diligence: the right tool
for many IP-related tasks
"Due diligence is a critical tool when entering into an M&A transaction". So says Mark Scott, this being the title of a Smart Business article where he interviews Elizabeth G. Yeargin (Partner in Ohio law firm Brouse McDowell). This message is scarcely hot news, which is actually quite depressing. Due diligence is indeed a critical tool, not just for M&A transactions but for many other tasks -- but it is increasingly apparent that many people in the business world seem to forget it almost as quickly as they heard it.  It should not be any more necessary to tell corporate decision-makers that due diligence is a critical tool than to remind them to get dressed before going out to work, or to turn their cellphone on before trying to make a call. 

To put it another way, you wouldn't think of crossing a road without checking first to see what traffic is hurtling towards you. So why should anyone be so reckless as to plunge into a corporate transaction that might be worth millions or, increasingly these days, billions, without performing a simple due diligence exercise that warns you of third party IP rights that might be targeting you, or checking that patents and other key assets on which you rely actually cover the area in which you need market protection?

A couple of points in the article are worth picking out -- not so much for the benefit of regular readers of this weblog, who will need little persuasion that due diligence is a worthwhile proposition, but for the benefit of those poor souls who are unlikely ever to see it and who may one day be answerable to colleagues, shareholders and their own consciences for the avoidable errors that will be attributed to them:
"How informed is the typical buyer going into an M&A transaction?

... Companies will often spend less time and money if it’s a smaller transaction because they see the risk as being smaller. But you run into some of the same issues when trying to complete a deal whether you’re buying something for $50,000 or $50 million. Regardless of the size of the target, you need to dig into the potential legal and financial risks, uncover potential liabilities and get assurance that the benefits of the deal outweigh the potential dangers. You can then use that information, if you decide to move forward, to determine or adjust the purchase price for the target [It is a mistake to confuse the likelihood of the occurrence of a loss with the likely scale of a loss. Risk calculation, in due diligence and elsewhere, measures the chances of things going wrong.  An assessment of the consequences once things have gone wrong is quite a different matter. The former is based on the identification and interpretation of relevant factual data (eg who owns patents, how long is their maximum duration), while the latter requires assessment of a cascade of hypothetical situations].

What areas should you focus on as you conduct your due diligence?

Buyers typically are adept at reviewing another company’s management team and the big picture financials such as revenue, sales volume and personnel costs. But you also want to review the condition and composition of that company’s assets. ... What about intellectual property (IP)? What does that company’s customer base look like? What supplier or material contracts are in place? You also want to be aware of any litigation or product liability issues that might pertain to that company, as well as matters that involve employee benefits, labor unions, insurance, taxes or potential anti-trust concerns [It's  good to see IP specifically mentioned-- though it is also given an oblique nod under the heading of 'litigation', especially in the United EU and other developed markets]. ..."
Aistemos remains a firm enthusiast when it comes to diligence, as can be seen from this case study, posted a month ago.  This is why due diligence forms the core of the webinar being held later this month on how due diligence can assist in making savings in running an IP portfolio [the webinar takes place on 21 September: full details here].

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Cipher User Conference 2016: a rallying-point for IP analytics believers

Cipher Users can get together
and compare experiences
While working in IP analytics can be a rewarding experience both intellectually and financially, it can also be a depressing one. This is because so many sectors that could really benefit from it remain ignorant and, one sometimes feels, wilfully blind to the significance of patents and other IP rights in developing new products and services, identifying and fending off competitors, negotiating strategic licences and effectuating successful mergers and acquisitions. Institutional and private investors may lack the degree of understanding that enables them to appreciate the significance of IP within the range of assets held by a recipient of funds, while the deeply-embedded, long-established practices of financial institutions hark back to a bricks-and-mortar era when intangible assets were accorded little or no importance on the balance sheet or beyond it.

It is thus with great excitement that Aistemos welcomes like-minded souls, sensitive to the importance of IP in general and the role of IP analytics in particular, to this year's Cipher User Conference on Thursday20 October. 

Topics covered include the use of Cipher for corporate transactions, in patenting strategy for the purpose of competitive landscaping. Speakers include such respected figures as Phil David (ARM Systems) and Lucy Wojcik (Ocado); confirmation of the participation of Matt McBrien (BAE Systems) is awaited. Various Aistemos folk will also be offering their thoughts and reflecting on their experiences over the three years since the company came to life.

Details of this half-day event, hosted by Aistemos in its Covent Garden headquarters, can be accessed by clicking here.  

For more information, and to register, please contact

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The language of innovation: whose responsibility is it?

"When Innovation Meets the Language of the Corner Office", posted by Berkeley academic Dave Rochlin on the MIT Sloan Management Review [available here], asks a question on which many of us have pondered: "What are the best ways to tailor the language of innovation to the executive suite? In this piece Rochlin describes the fruits of a highly revealing innovation communication workshop and makes a number of fascinating points. Among other things, he says:
"We have learned that innovation executives often feel poorly understood by their fellow executives. In turn, functional executives are often baffled by what they see and hear from their innovation teams.

This isn’t a big surprise. As with other business disciplines, innovation experts have their own language. Innovation processes now include journey mapping, need-finding, technology-scouting, business model canvasing, prototyping, design sprints, and more. While these processes and terms are becoming more widely used across organizations, they are not always fully embraced at the executive level [But those terms are generally used for convenience or precision when talking to each other, not when pitching to the C-suite. In the same way, surgeons may refer to terms such as "knee" or "tummy" when speaking to patients but draw on terms of art when mapping out the parameters of an operation together].

At the same time, executives have their own unique language and tools, often derived from the strategy consulting firms embedded on the ‘executive floor’ of organizations.
It’s the innovators’ job to translate the conversation. Communicating across languages almost always requires significant work. While meeting in the middle or encouraging CEOs to cross-train in the language of innovation is a noble thought, asking executives to switch mindsets is not likely to fit the cadence of their workday [Not sure. We are talking about CEOs, not dummies. Most CEOs today were born in an era when concepts and terms such as 'browse', 'download', 'app', 'open innovation', 'cookies', 'cloud', 'tweet', 'spam' and 'surf' had yet to enter their lives, but managed to adapt to them pretty well in their ordinary lives. Why should their places of work be different?]. This means that it is innovationists who need to become more bilingual and strategy fluent — able to present in the style that management consulting firms use when making formal recommendations, updates, or requests. 
No matter how the work is generated, the final read out should include concrete problem statements and recommendations up front, backed up by supporting arguments and data. Innovation bilingualism also means being sensitive to the large amount of other activity on a typical executive’s plate [absolutely right, and all too often forgotten]: Between meetings, a CEO may not have had a chance to give an innovator’s project any thought [One might argue that it is for the CEO, as the person  has to act on the information and analysis provided by innovationists, to take the initiative by asking questions and seeking clarification if the terminology of the responses is unhelpful. This is what he or she would do in a private capacity when engaging the services of a doctor, dentist, accountant or lawyer. Why should it be any different here?].
Is there room for storytelling in making a compelling case for a new direction? Absolutely. The language of customer need is one that everyone speaks. But the structure and language of the story should match the audience. When speaking to executives, innovation leaders should make sure they are not only heard, but understood [True, but more can be expected of CEOs since they are more than merely an "audience". They are not parachuted into their positions of leadership and responsibility from planet Mars.  Nor are they picked at random from the street.  They may be expected to have obtained a substantial degree of knowledge, understanding and discernment regarding the companies they run, the markets in which those companies operate and the nature of the products, services and technologies that concern their companies].
In short, while Rochlin makes a number of important points, he may be expecting too little of the CEO -- who should be expected to show the same degree of intelligence, initiative and flexibility in the discharge of business responsibilities as he or she can be more or less guaranteed to display when at home, on holiday or out shopping.

Monday, 5 September 2016

August's Aistemos blogposts: a handy summary

With August now behind us and September well under way, it's time to post our monthly list of the departing month's Aistemos blogposts. This is a handy way to update our regular readers on what we've been writing about during a period when they may well have been away on holiday. It's also a good way of introducing new readers, in a single blogpost, to a perspective on the sort of issues that concern us.

Each blogpost 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:

We have been reading about media and information giant Elsevier's DataSearch engine. This tool which, according to its logo, is still at Beta level, is described as "the next step in making researchers’ lives easier".  We take a look at it and comment on its relevance to IP analytics.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Global Innovation Index 2016 was published last month. Compiled with the assistance of Cornell University and INSEAD, it provides a wealth of information -- but does this data hold any real value for businesses?

This is a reminder about our next Aistemos webinar event, which takes place on Wednesday, 21 September [details are available from the webinar website].  Its focal point is the role of IP due diligence, offering a fresh approach to this topic. 

*** Wednesday, 24 August 2016: Innovation: too important to leave to employees?
"True or False: Employees Should not Be Bothered with Innovation?" That's the question posed by Copenhagen-based strategic adviser Stefan Lindegaard. This piece raises some points that call for comment. We reproduce them here and add some thoughts of our own.

"The impact of Brexit on intellectual property" is the title of a paper released in August by the UK's Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys --the largest and most influential body of IP practitioners in exit-bound Britain. The basic message is that there's not much change in the pipeline, at least in the short term.

Here's a reminder of our ongoing survey on "IP in the Boardroom". Do please complete it if you've not already done so.  

"How universities can focus their patenting on technologies with the highest potential" is a recent post to Tech Transfer Central by David Schwartz, discussing the returns on exploitation of university-generated innovation. Is this sector under-performing, or is too much expected of it?

Here's another Cipher Snapshot, this time reviewing the spread of patents in the emerging collaborative robotics sector.

Trade secret asset management" is a case study by our friend Donal O'Connell, which highlights many issues facing not only those who seek to rationalise and enhance their routines for dealing with trade secrets but also those who have to advise them.

Intellectual property law and practice is not a place where fact and fantasy often meet.  This is particularly true of tales of due diligence, where fairytale endings are never contemplated, still less found. The next Aistemos webinar will paint due diligence in brighter colours. Do join us on 21 September!

Has the Japanese Patent Office hit on an ingenious idea in subsidizing the cost of insuring Japanese companies against the cost and risk ot foreign patent litigation, or is the idea misconceived?

Here's a 118-second presentation which summarises the Cipher patent analytics tool succinctly, together with a list of examples of Cipher's deployment in a variety of contexts.

We review and discuss "Creating a Global Patent Strategy: Advice from Silicon Valley", a question-and-answer post on IP Folio. 

Following the phenomenal success of Pokémon Go, we look at augmented reality patents and consider who might be the real powers in this lively, lucrative market.

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

If you like our emails, why not receive them by email? Just enter your email address in the little box in the sidebar, or email us at and we will do it for you.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Putting a price on Copaxone: pharma patents at a premium?

"Teva Plunges After Two U.S. Copaxone Patents Invalidated", posted to Bloomberg by Susan Decker and Catherine Larkin, tells the tale of another stock price fluctuation in the wake of a patent invalidation decision. Whether the 3% drop in Teva's value constitutes a 'plunge' or something less dramatic -- or indeed whether a larger fall could have been expected, given Copaxone's predicted level of contribution to Teva's profits -- are questions for debate between headline writers and financial analysts, but any movement in stock value that follows a legal ruling on the validity of an intellectual property right is a topic that attracts the attention of this weblog.

The invalidation in this story was effected by the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), a body from which invalidation decisions can be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). Even that is not necessarily the end of the line, since CAFC decisions also be reviewed on a discretionary basis by the United States Supreme Court -- the ultimate authority on establishing judicial standards for patentability. Where, as in the case of Teva's Copaxone patents, large sums of money are at stake, PTAB rulings are likely to be challenged (Teva has already signalled its intention to appeal).

Initially the PTAB was described as a "death squad" for challenged patents, with over 80% having their claims invalidated or being dropped in consequence of a legal challenge since it opened its doors to business almost four years ago to the day. The most recent data suggests that around 40% of patents are now surviving, and that much of the carnage has been in the area of software-related patents in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in Alice Corp v CLS Bank.  Teva itself is an experienced and successful patent litigating pharma company, though it's fair to note that many of its most notable successes have been in the company's role as a generics manufacturer rather than in asserting their rights against others.

The report on the company's stock price drop gives us an excuse to do a little bit of patent analytics in order to take a look at Teva's general patent health in context, comparing Teva's patent holdings with those of its main competitors in those areas in which it trades as principally a proprietary pharma enterprise rather than as a generic manufacturer. 

First, in terms of portfolio size, we can see that Teva has gradually augmented its holding of granted patent families over the past decade, a period during which other leading pharma companies have either thinned out their patent assets or, in the case of Bristol-Myers Squibb, have remained more or less static.

In  terms of patent family applications, Teva has caught up with its rivals over the past decade and now leads the pack by a considerable distance.

In  terms of estimated annual expenditure, Teva has however been largely outspent, with only Eli Lilly spending less.

Territorial coverage is also worth a look: Teva's geographical spread of patent protection is remarkably even. In contrast, Bristol-Myer Squibb is notably skewed in favour of the lucrative US market, while Pfizer has concentrated more on the growing Asia-Pacific zone, which is also favoured by AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly.

What does this all show? In general terms, not a great deal. Teva's patent portfolio is sufficiently extensive and robust to withstand the occasional loss of even an immensely profitable patent like those governing Copaxone. However, the value of individual patents is clearly greater in the pharma sector than in, for example, information technology and communications -- where successful commercialisation of a product or service may depend on the use of a large number of patents: there are few patents outside pharma that are analogous to the single patent that specifically protects a blockbuster drug formulation that is a blockbuster. But that's not news to anyone.

This weblog will be keeping an eye out for developments in the Copaxone saga and will comment as necessary on those aspects of it that seem most deserving of attention.