Importance of an IP Mindset

August 31, 2021

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This episode features Bowman Heiden Co-Director CIP and visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He talks about the importance of an IP mindset through education.

Bowman was joined by the Cipher Vision Podcast hosts:

Listen to a clip of Bowman Heiden discussing a “new professional identity”

Highlights of the Importance of an IP Mindset:

There are many students who may be thinking about going back to university at the start of the academic year, so so fantastic that we can have you on at this time.

Why we do things this way is that my background is a bit unique and other people I work with is a bit unique. That creates an innovative thinking when you bring in different possibilities. They had these interesting ideas about the knowledge economy and the role of IP. So it was kind of, you know, serendipity, coming together to focus on what does it mean in the knowledge economy? And what do we even mean by knowledge economy, I mean, knowledge has been around for a long time.  And the control of knowledge, is always going to land you into discussion about intellectual property.

We’re going to talk about education a lot, though. And your approach, I think, I always think of you as a pioneer, because your approach to education has been very different to the one that I was brought up with, I was a an IP lawyer for 30 years, and I was taught intellectual property as a module because I knew I was going to become a lawyer. That’s not your approach. At all. You always talk to me in terms of this trilogy between technology, law and business.

The lawyers need to understand the technology to understand the legal dimension, and they also need to understand the business, understand the relevance of trying to work with the technology to bring it out into the market. The engineers need to understand the economic and, and the legal dimension, and so on. So, when you bring all these different disciplines together, and so what we ended up doing is teaching an interdisciplinary curriculum. We intertwine it all together with a focus on innovation, and entrepreneurship. And so we have an interdisciplinary curriculum. It’s interdisciplinary on two levels, which allows for people to understand IP is just a natural part of business as opposed to a separate, separate subject all of its own, but also learn let’s different disciplines, learn how to speak and talk to people of other disciplines, which I think is critical.

Thinking about these T shaped individuals that you’re shaping through the education program, how have you seen the the impact of those individuals in industry?

We were very focused on creating a new education that would prepare people to develop, or to build businesses and transform existing businesses in this what we call knowledge economy. What we realized quickly is that if we build people with these skill sets, there isn’t necessarily a role in companies for these young, interdisciplinary people. So what they’ve done is they’ve usually gone out and use this background to do rather interesting things, but they almost always need to embed themselves into the existing way things are being done. So they might go into management consulting, but they have this broader mindset.

Our lawyers have created companies, some credit tech companies, some have created new legal companies. Now we have legal tech, as an area, which is an obvious combination of technology and law. And certainly, we have people in other parts of the R&D and strategy part of an organization which is also very effective because they, they appreciate IP and can interface with the IP.

Cipher has been very fortunate to be a to be encouraged to be a supporter of CIP, and to take interns on a regular basis. And we have benefited hugely from that experience. These t shaped people are different. They certainly are and they’re also exceptional human beings. But all I said when I introduce you to the podcast was to say, oh, this is Bow, long standing founder of CIP, and now travelling across the US in Berkeley.

Looking back at the serendipitous moment where Ericsson coming out of the 90s, had learned about the value of IP as a core as a core to creating value was faster. So they felt that it was important that intellectual property was discussed as a strategic management subject, doesn’t mean that it’s not legal, it just means that the focus would be on business. So we’ve had this relationship with industry, academic relationship. And that’s been critical because in academia, you want academia to come up with new theories, you want them to organize people together. You also need to always be linked to what industry is seeing. And that’s why I talk about a mindset. It’s very easy when you’re in an industry, when you start to do your work to get a bit myopic, and you need people to come in and open up your thinking.

When we are discussing the key messages that we want people to come away with from our Cipher vision podcasts, we do think about the IP professional, but I’m actually thinking, is that term almost outdated? Do you know should we have IP professionals? Or actually is that thinking kind of wrong, because we’re not creating t shaped individuals with with multidisciplinary teams capabilities.

IP Education

For a new national identity, we definitely need IP professionals that dig into the details, patent attorneys that are good at writing patents, lawyers that are good at creating contracts and structuring deals. We need the specialists, but we also need the generalist. The generalist can kind of see the forest for the trees. There’s nothing worse than to do with greater efficiency that which should not have been done in the first place. So it’s the broad picture that makes you ask the question, why?  If we’re going to apply for a patent, why? I know we probably can get it granted, but why are we doing it? The why forces this T shaped to come about. How is everything linked in the company? I think that not only does the IP profession need to have more of this, why perspective, it’ll even make you a better specialist.

So that’s an augmentation already to the current profession. But there needs to be a new group of people that are constantly focused on the business, but then think about how IP can be used to leverage the business goals. And those can be some similar people, but sometimes they sometimes they won’t be. And I think we need to have both of these. And that means the second group that we’ve been focusing on, which is not to say that some of our students don’t go on to become specialists, but we’ve been focusing primarily on this strategic generalist.

The last podcast guest was Suzanne Harrison. She was talking about the rise of IP strategy. Because of the rise of intangibles, but there is this joining there is this recognition that the assets that you can’t see and touch the intangible assets, the intellectual property is so important to the success of the business that this starting with why I’m so happy that you said that in everything.

It is difficult to to create interdisciplinary education in universities, it is rather siloed. The law school is on one part of campus and engineering is on another part and the business is on another. But primarily you sit within your within your faculty and you publish within journals within that faculty. So to create an interdisciplinary education requires what I call the visible hand, right? And so the way that we did it in Gothenburg is that we had key actors involved in this in the development of CIP sitting on the different faculties.

The different students that come together, are not going to get some type of new joint degree that never existed before, they’re still going to be engineers, and MBAs  and other labs, but the more that we can get them to study together to see being good at what they do, they do relates to the other people that they need to interface with, in creating business. I think that at the very least, this creates this more robust, broad thinking T shaped people, whether this can turn into some type of completely new interdisciplinary way, way of going forward the kind of a new norm in, in academia, it’s still difficult based on the existing educational model.

When we’re looking at the IP professionals of today who are in organizations, what’s your experience? Are we seeing T shaped people? Are we seeing this sort of generalist bigger picture thinking?

I spend a lot of time with heads of intellectual property and patents in large organizations and growing organizations. And they’re definitely changing. It’s up to 50% of the people working in the teams are non patent people. They’re either engineers, that’s typically where you foster some of the great creative minds to work in patent teams. There are economists in organizations like Google and Facebook, there are data scientists, and also the listeners are very different. The CTO isn’t now a sort of piggy bank that you can shake and get money to go and fund epics amounts of patenting without answering the why because you’re competing for resources. There’s a great article, which Facebook inspired us to collaborate with called return on investment of patents. And that ROI calculation is a business metric.

The statistic that we roll out in IP, about the time in 1970, the S&P was mostly tangible assets. And now it’s mostly intangible, of course. And in new companies, you know, some of the companies that weren’t there and the S&P in the 1970s, that are there. Now, these new digital companies, you know, like the Facebook’s and the Googles, that they look at intellectual property in a broad way and see lots of different things. So they see the need for economists, you know, this is a policy issue. Now, on a government level, it’s even geopolitical. So when you start to see the importance, the why, or what do we want to achieve?

Then you start to see, okay, we need to ask some more questions. And now we need to ask questions that are different than the ones we used to ask many different people with different skill sets. And certainly the one, the one role, the chief intellectual property officer was probably the, the most recent in the last 20 years, of a moving up or broadening of capabilities with within the IP department. I mean, digital companies are only intangible assets, right?

Future of Intellectual Property

What more needs to be done? Do you think in this in this area of developing the IP mindset?

Well, depends on the progress of artificial intelligence, maybe she maybe she won’t have to work very much he can do whatever she wants, that’d be nice. But when it comes to IP, we talk a lot about IP education, in different ways. We run a two year Master’s program, where IP is embedded throughout the whole program focused on innovation entrepreneurship, as opposed to just focusing on IP as something in of itself. I think it’s better to embed it.  So for her, it would be good that she would get to learn about intellectual property embedded in our are we trying to solve problems. Are we trying to solve problems for business? How are we trying to solve problems for society?

IP as you know, the control of knowledge is a very fundamental concept has a lot of excellent ethical implications. And is of course, beyond being critical to understand as a business. It’s the mindset, why is IP important? And what can it do? And that’s why I say that if we’re going to teach IP on it, even on a an introductory level, I would always start with IP strategy, which is another way of saying IP for what, why why or why IP? why did why? What does it do for us? Because if you can, if people know that, then they want to know more. Then they want to know the details. Don’t start with the details. Start with the why we need we need a Y campaign.

I think it’s, it’s like, I know, it’s a Simon Sinek thing and credit to him. But that why, how what starting with Why, is just so important in everything we do. And I don’t think intangible assets, intellectual property escapes that test. The various 40 billion a year spent on patents every year to maintain and protect them, file new ones, there are hundreds of millions of patent documents I’d like to go on. I think that not everyone knows the answer to how many patents are enough or, or to put it in your terminology, why do we what we do? And I think it gives people meaning.

The most important is that understand that IP people need a business mindset. But also business people need an IP mindset. And what that allows them to do business people with an IP mindset allows them to look at what they’re doing and understand the role of control in business. And that’s critical. It’s broader than just IP. But IP helps you to understand that and it’s critical. The second thing would be that we should have an IP strategy, perspective. And more than just teaching IP basics. It should always be IP strategy.

Tune in to our next podcast, we’ll be speaking to Dan McCurdy, CEO of RPX, about the management and mitigation of patent risk.

For featuring as a guest in one of our future episodes reach out to [email protected]

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