Chris Kowalsky, Technical Product and Patent Strategy Lead, explains the need for strategic IP management within BorgWarner and how LexisNexis Cipher has improved efficiency and reduced cost at BorgWarner as they develop new technologies essential to the future of the car. Divided into two business units, Drivetrain and Engine, BorgWarner is a worldwide American supplier in the automotive industry of vehicle components. With a commitment to becoming environmentally friendly, an increased focus on electric vehicle parts sits at the core of their business. Chris’ role includes driving the business towards more strategic use of intellectual property and identifying the challenges that have emerged from electrification as the need for both developed and acquired IP becomes paramount in certain areas.
What’s the difference between IP tactics and strategy and why is it important?
You have to pay more attention to what you’re patenting and how you’re patenting and to take a close look at the relevance of your portfolio. If a technology has advanced beyond your patents in a specific area, it may make no sense to keep them – and the related expense. There were times when patents were treated as treasures that you locked up and you just kept paying for. In a more strategic world, a patent has to be an asset that helps the company. You need to manage the asset in a way that maximises its value rather than just keeping everything.
I’m one of the key players driving the agenda to develop a more strategic way to protect IP. We are getting to the point where the stakeholders are able to see how they’re performing vs their key competitors in the field. Ideally, we will be able to gauge our IP strategy and how it’s changed from our plans made just a few years ago – to see where we are with reference to our competitors now and then make adjustments going forward. The goal is to align our IP strategy with our business strategy.
With Cipher, in a few hours I can produce a report that used to cost me $20,000 to do on the outside, and it’s far more relevant and useful than the $20,000 report I used to pay for.
With Cipher, in a few hours I can produce a high quality, insightful report where previously I would pay $20,000 and wait 2 months – for a report that didn’t answer my questions.
What’s your experience of working with Cipher’s AI classifiers?
It’s brilliant once you understand the method, what’s going on – it’s actually a rather simple system to work with. At the start, someone has to help the AI learn, and the tools inside the software allow you to select patents and choose ones that are more relevant which makes the process easy – you still have to do some reading, but it’s technical skills, not patent search skills. The key here is that Cipher delivers better results without having to acquire a complete education in patent language.
The thing that Cipher software is going to be the most powerful for is the fact that anyone can pick this up, and extract really interesting information about patented technologies. I think it is phenomenal, but you’ve got to get everyone to the point that they know they can get this information from IP. There’s some education to do and you’ve got to convert them to understand.
What’s wrong with existing patent tools?
We have used a lot of database tools. They are able to find patents, but it takes a lot of skill to drill down and locate the ones you are looking for. For example, if I want to look up a style of transmission then getting through the language and finding out what various companies call that technology is a difficult task. Searching on patent codes isn’t reliable because of the different patent codes used by different patent offices.
With the AI involved with Cipher and in particular the classifiers, we’re able to get to the relevant sets of patents much faster than in the past. By using Cipher’s classifiers, any manager, anyone with the engineering skill, can drill into a set of patents and find the information they need much faster than in the past.
How does patent data help with competitive intelligence?
The interesting thing is that IP is the only legal source of information that you can acquire that gives you the insight into what your competitors are thinking and where your competitors are going. If I look at a competitor patent that’s filed on an emerging technology I have an idea of what they’re working on, how they manufacture and whether it’s likely that they will progress to production with something. I probably can get a 2-3 year advantage on what the new thing is that a competitor is planning to come up with.
What are the benefits of using Cipher?
The huge advantage of Cipher is the speed of getting relevant business information – how much my competitors are spending, what do my competitors own.
With Cipher in a few hours, I can produce a report that used to cost me $20,000 to do on the outside, and it’s far more relevant and useful than the $20,000 report I used to pay for. I outsourced a patent landscape a few years ago and all they could do was give me a pile of patents that they think are relevant – that was pretty useless. Unless I was willing to read through everything, I don’t know what I was expected to do with that. Now, I’m using Cipher classifiers to do my landscapes, and then share them with management and can say here’s what’s going on, here’s who the players are. That’s now something that anyone can access in an instant.
You have a wonderful tool.