Executive summary. Opportunity missed to set the business tone.
Is IP at a Tipping Point? According to IPBCs keynote opening address it is. Six speakers on the keynote panel, four US accents (very able but why, do we not have talent in Europe?), three officers from the patent and trademark offices in the US and Europe (Europe’s, as ever, is split into two functions), dominated by about 80% talk about patents, but not a CEO in sight.
The closest we came to a business leader was the CEO of the Rockstar Consortium. He looked like and talked like one of our client’s ambitious and visionary CEOs.
Some debate on whether it is at a Tipping Point naturally from individuals own perspectives. More patents, faster granted patents through automation, SOPA, PIPA, smartphone patent wars, more trademarks, lower fees, better examination, Nortel as a landmark (described as seminal, I don’t think so) event.
It would be hard to disagree that IP has come a long long way this last 12 months. But as a father of five, I find it hard to say that this is a Tipping Point as described and defined by Gladwell in his book of the same name. Let me explain.
I have five kids aged between 6 and 14. With all five we’ve had a range of what we thought were Tipping Points towards disaster. And many where we thought that we had reached the persistent breakthrough but then realised that despite our joy, they would then do something unexpected and often stupid that made us question our parenting skills.
And IPs evolution is following the same sort of path. It’s probably closest in maturity to my 6 year old. She thinks she can be a lady but she just can’t (that breaking wind and laughing runs down my Geordie side of the family, quite an inheritance I think), thinks she can dress herself but then creates odd combinations.
If IP were at a Tipping Point then we would be falling over CEOs at this, the best of all the IP events on the circuit. We would be bumping into PE fund managers in the loos, getting coffee invites from analysts and investment bankers. And the keynote panel would be talking to those exact same people in a language they would all understand.
So no we are not there yet and I don’t think, looking back when I’m 60 (11.5 years from now) that we will ever be able to identify one event, one year, one person, one seminal moment when it all came together. Like my 12 year old we will not know why he’s suddenly a just great kid. It’s a series of random, unconnected, persistent and dogmatic points that all join together to create a result that joins the dots looking backwards.
But at least I like a lot of the IP community. What a joy to bump into my first contact this morning, the charming John Olsen from Edwards Wildman. John smiled his charming smile when I said he looked like half a John Olsen. He’s been running on his treadmill every day and looks like one of those ads for a guy with pants that are now triple his waist size. John told me that this week is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. He also told me that Dickens spent many of his last years chasing down people breaking his copyrights in the US. As ever John, right on the money.
Number of times the word “patent” mentioned in the keynote. 236 in 60 minutes. That is 3.933 times per minute. Trade marks got 25. Intellectual capital got 1. Copyrights nil. Designs 1. This IP community is still, in my humble view at a neanderthal level, knocking on for being 6 years old but with a long way to go.
Think I need to find a subset of this community that thinks like me. Who’s out there? There’s never been a better time for us future thinkers who think beyond hitting people with big sticks and smiling at the cleverness of it all. Anyone up for starting an ip fire. I’ll bring the kindling.