Bursting the IP Bubble

May 27, 2022


Episode Highlights

On his achievements during a 30-year career in IP journalism

The thing I’m most proud of is founding IAM.

In the 1990s there was a lot written about about IP law, and the latest law, the latest decision.  IP was also becoming much more of a focus in terms of the business community, especially around valuation of intangible rights, but there was nothing that actually reflected that in what was then the print media.

So it just struck me there was an opportunity and we got IAM off the ground and grew it into what it’s become, is probably what I’m most proud of.

On the global audience

We have 28,000 subscribers globally to our newsletter. We felt that if we could develop something that would appeal to people that ran IP groups, inside corporations, people that were responsible for managing portfolios, and creating value value from those portfolios, if we could build something that worked for them, that would then attract the hinterland of people around them.

But our focus has always been in terms of our core reader, the Chief Intellectual Property Officer, the person in charge of creating value inside a business from IP.

On the most important IP theme – change

If I think back to when I started and I think about the way that corporate IP functions were structured, and I look at the way that the service provision to those functions were structured, I can see a kind of a straight line of continuity from 2003, through to 2022.

I’m seeing in the next five years, a hell of a lot of disruption, a hell of a lot of change, and that’s coming from companies like Cipher, the data people, the analytics people.  On a wider basis, there’s much more attention now being paid to IP, from a policy perspective, it’s much more politically important than it used to be.

You’re seeing the beginnings of a much greater interest from the finance community. And that in turn is going to have an impact on the way in which businesses themselves view intellectual property.

On why patent data will become pivotal

As the technology advances, the ability to go in and extract information is becoming much more owned, there’s just more data available in the first place. The ability to choose which data to use, what to make of that data, is going to be absolutely pivotal.

You’ve got the ability to hone into a portfolio and actually identify the specific patents that will create the value and build a strategy around those patents.

And that’s going to have a massive change in terms of the transaction marketplace, but it’s also going to have a huge impact in terms of the creation of patents as an asset.

The ability to analyze that data. It’s changed the game.

On transparency

At some point, if patent owners themselves don’t decide to become transparent, they’re going to be told to be transparent.  Policymakers want to know who owns the patents, because the patents are at the root of it all. And if people aren’t volunteering that information, at some point, it’s going to become compulsory to do it.

Policy is becoming much more of a focus. And if the IP community doesn’t understand that it’s going to have decisions foisted on it, that are going to prove very unpopular, and very difficult to work through.

On trends affecting the global landscape

China is doing what all fast growing developing countries have always done. And that’s appropriating as much intellectual property to to themselves as possible.

The difference between China and all the countries, including the US and Japan, and all those other countries that did it in the past is that China is the first one to be doing it in the fully connected digital age.  And so the ability to go out and appropriate IP is now much greater than it ever was.

But beyond that, we can probably over-obsess about China, and blame China for everything, when actually a lot of the problems or potential problems that we have have been caused by ourselves.  China didn’t force European and American companies to overextend their supply lines and become too reliant on chip suppliers from Taiwan and manufacturing.

On standard essential patents (SEPs) and whether legal issues are a mere sideline

The system clearly isn’t broken. Because I look at my iPhone and I think what my phone was like 15 or 20 years ago, and now of all the things I can do with it. We have taken massive leaps forward.

This is not a market that is being ruined by high prices and high licensing fees. Licensors have every incentive to want to make their licensing rates as attractive as possible, because they want as many people as possible to be licensed.

I would prefer the policymakers to stay out of it, because I just worry that they are going to get influenced by stuff they shouldn’t be influenced about.

On how IP professionals can communicate to investors and boards

IP people are very comfortable talking in long words and technical terms and Latin legal phrases. And that’s great when you’re talking to each other.  But as soon as you start having conversations with people outside the bubble, it all falls to pieces.

The SEP debate – all the running in all this debate is being made by people who want to reduce patent rights. And they were able to make the running because they understood who their audience was. And they were able to frame their language in a way that appealed to that audience.

You’ve got to be able to talk so people will understand outside the IP bubble, we need to be talking about words like fairness and innovation and growth and jobs, and security and wealth.

On IP providing economic opportunities

The fundamental thing about IP, is that it underpins many of the key drivers of the 21st century economy.  You think about things like data, you think about content, you think about innovation and invention, you think about brand, all those are facilitated to an extent, at least by IP rights or related rights.

We’re talking about something that is of fundamental importance to the global economy. And that is an opportunity.

On what the future holds for IP

The rise of data, the ability to analyze that data, where IP sits inside business, and the importance of IP to business, the demands that IP owners are going to be making of their service providers and lawyers and all of that is going through fundamental change.

And if people don’t embrace that change, then they are going to be left behind.

Change is not an option. Change is something that you have to accept is happening, and you have to adapt accordingly. There is a revolution going on out there.  IP is only going to get more important in more parts of the world. It’s a fantastic time to be involved, as long as you understand what’s going on.

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