Generally, French companies own fewer patents than their competitors, when compared to other European entities of the same size. “A lost opportunity, because there is a clear correlation between innovation, patents and value. Patents create value”, says Didier Patry, CEO of investment and advisory firm France Brevets. He explains that French entrepreneurs learned this lesson the hard way. “When entering new markets outside France, they often encountered patent infringements. Simultaneously, big, powerful American and Chinese tech companies were fighting a relentless battle for the ownership of intellectual property. If European companies want to be a serious player and survive this battle, they need to be properly equipped”.
An important element of the ‘armor’ they need is solid, sophisticated patent management, according to Didier Patry. However, obtaining the full picture requires a lot of insights. “You need to know the status of your competitors’ patents, and you need to clearly map out the balance of power. And equally important: you have to be able to compare this to your own patent portfolio and use the data to strengthen that portfolio or complete it if necessary. The most important, yet most complex, factor in this equation is not quantity, but the quality of the patents. What value do they represent?” To determine that value, France Brevets uses the Patent Asset Index™, which is part of the LexisNexis® PatentSight® solution.
Advanced analytics with power tools
France Brevets provides strategic counseling to promising startups that want to patent their ideas or inventions. To this end, France Brevets grants a financial facility that needs to be reimbursed within two years. In addition to the investment funding, the company also serves as a knowledge center that coaches new entrepreneurs and advises them on best practices, governance and patent portfolio management. Didier Patry’s team includes established patent analysts and top experts with a successful track record in the international business world.
“As a startup with a new invention, you don’t want to be outplayed by corporations with more market power. You can only prevent this if you make sure you play your cards right,“ he says. His team of experts knows how to build up patent families that are offensive and defensive at the same time. This is a very delicate balance, that requires strategic insight and the ability to look into the future. Although he acknowledges the complexity of shaping a crystal ball, the CEO stresses that it is doable: “Making an in-depth analysis with the help of powerful tools will enable you to make accurate and reliable predictions.”
Insights help to spark discussions
To monitor developments in the patent landscape, France Brevets has used PatentSight® for the past three years. Didier Patry says that he is ‘a huge fan’. He does admit that the tool may require some training to use. However, that has everything to do with the complexity of the matter behind it and not so much with the tool itself. He explains: basic knowledge of statistical principles is essential. “If you want to make optimum use of this tool, you need to be aware of the possibilities and boundaries.”
But once you know how to use the platform and its many features, it is an extremely useful source of information, he says. “The insights provided are easily transferable to entrepreneurs and CEOs. It provides the type of information that sparks a discussion. It helps people to generate new ideas but also to easily communicate with VCs, the outside world and non-experts.”
PatentSight® as a partner
He also speaks very highly of the quality of the data in PatentSight®. According to Didier Patry, this is an ongoing discussion within the world of patents, but he sees PatentSight’s vision on data quality as ‘a good industry standard’. “We tested the system on patents that we knew really well. We compared the PatentSight® analysis with our own information. The platform performed remarkably well in that benchmark. We had an eighty percent match, that is an extremely significant result.”
He is also very happy with the collaboration with the PatentSight® team. Comments and remarks about possible product enhancements are actively acted upon, bugs are fixed, and new features are regularly introduced. Didier Patry: “In that sense, PatentSight is a partner rather than a tool for us.”
Model for Europe
The CEO is currently setting up a French alliance of affiliated businesses, which also includes competitors. By combining and aligning their patent portfolio’s, the businesses in the alliance become more robust and resilient to external attacks. When business within the same industry start collaborating like this, they stand a chance in the fight against technological superpowers. Didier Patry has high expectations: “If this works for France, it could become a model that we roll out over the rest of Europe.”
About France Brevets
The reason for setting up an investment fund that focusses specifically on acquiring patents finds its origin in a switch in the French industry politics in 2011, says Didier Patry. He has been at the helm of the investment firm in Intellectual Property in the past four years. Half of France Brevets is owned by the French government and they have around 200 million euro in funding. France Brevets is part of a larger French ambition to help innovative French companies to make a successful entry onto the international market. The fund’s objective is to stimulate the ‘patent awareness’ of French companies, so they can catch up on other countries when it comes to technological innovation.
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