From the category archives:


It’s been a couple of interesting days in Oviedo, Spain, at the first Nanofutures conference launching the European Technology Integration and Innovation Platform (ETIP) in Nanotechnology. The ETIP is designed to be Europe’s forum for research and commercialisation of nanotech products and the conference was well attended by a number of European Commission officials and Spanish politicians. Indeed it was a little strange for this participant to participate in a scientific event at which the police were out in force, presumably to protect the (more important) participants.#alttext#

I spent a lot of time talking to others in the conference about their work in nanotechnology and commercialising their efforts. A lot of the posters in the hall outlined some very basic research which is probably years from commercialisation, but there was also a fair share of small start-up companies (often from universities) who were looking for business (and often investment). The understanding of intellectual property issues varied tremendously. One conference speaker from a company based in Santander highlighted the importance of good patent protection, not only in Spain but also in other countries. She emphasised the need to get good IP advice from the very beginning.#alttext#

Another speaker (who shall remain nameless) talked about the success his company was having but failed to deal with any questions about how the technology was protected. His company has no patents (at least none published on the ESPACENET database) and some of the technology seemed fairly easy to reverse engineer (but I’m only a mere Physicist and not a real Nanotechnologist). In that case one wonders how the company is protecting its long term value in intellectual assets

Walking around the exhibition and poster wall was fascinating. Some of the people I talked to really understood the value of the intellectual property developed. Others noted that they thought a patent had been filed or that they’d filed a description with a notary to protect their ideas. There seemed to be little appreciation at the conference of the need to identify and review the intellectual property developed and the most appropriate form of protection. #alttext#

A patent application is only of value if it really protects the business model of the company. Filing a patent on a process so that competitors receive full details of the process (as one company has clearly done) without thinking through and protecting use cases, licensing programmes and business opportunities is often a waste of money and resources. Traditionally some companies had filed details of their ideas with a local notary and relied on these deposits to “prove” that they have prior rights to an invention. That may have been a good strategy when markets are local – but in a global business strategy it has little role to play. Prior use of an idea in Spain does not protect a company from an alleged patent infringement in the United States (or even in France). And it is also not a substitute for a functioning trade secrets policy in which a company polices its disclosure of confidential information.

One research institute revealed that they had been somewhat surprised to find that a former student had put software developed at the institute into the Internet, apparently without permission. They had been looking to commercialise some of the work and if the software continued to be available free of charge there might be little incentive for anyone to take a licence.

There were a few bright spots. Rob met an old acquaintance from German-based seed company Technostart who is involved in the EU’s ProNano project which aims to take thirty ideas through to commercialisation. She’s well aware of the need to ensure that a company’s intellectual property is well-developed. I was also there in my role as Co-Chair of the Licensing Executives Society International’s (LESI) Electronics, IT and Telecommunications committee. LESI runs a number of educations programmes on the bsuiness of intellectual property which are suitable for smaller companies. Together with his friends Jose Miguel Lissen, a patent litigator at Spanish IP firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo, and Dario Santander from Bardehle’s Barcelona’s office, we’re looking at what value membership of LESI could offer nanotech entrepreneurs in the commercialisation of intellectual property.


Economist Article on IV

by Andrew Watson on 24 February 2010

I see that the Economist online are running an article titled Brilliant Inventor or Patent Troll about Nathan and IV at

A view. To try to make this simple to understand.

To call Nathan or IV a troll is incredibly simplistic.

IV has built one of the Worlds most sophisticated businesses and it has the potential to have substantial direct and indirect returns for its shareholders. IVs people are amongst the brightest IP and business minds you could wish to find anywhere. And what they have done is combine lots of the smartest and newest ways of creating value from IP into the same entity in a patent and IP play on an absolutely massive scale.

 They are an invention house, and have adopted and reinvented leading edge patent strategies to create a portfolio of their own IP which, in its own, would be of high high worth.

 In combination they have acquired patents, hard to say how many as they are very private, but lots of patents on an unprecedented scale. Some say they have 30,000 patent families, but it is impossible to know exactly how many. What is believed though is that this number puts them in the Premier league (up there with IBM, Nokia, Qualcomm and others) in terms of IP influence. The buying has not come cheap but they’ve worked hard on starting with buying anything to moving to buying quality.

 And along the way they’ve worked hard on their IP reputation. Ask people who know anything and they’d say that if IV breathes in your direction, take a license. Perfect in the US world of IP where licenses are cheaper than litigation so companies like Acacia Research, a genuine troll, can prosper. But they don’t want to see seen to be litigators…that’s bad for reputation so they outsource that part to others who aren’t so bothered about what the outside world thinks of them.

 This is IP genius on a scale never seen before and which would be hard to come close to replicating again in a generation given what IV has successfully done. If you imagine or remember one of those days when the idea you had could change the world. Amazingly though almost nobody outside of the IP community and largely outside of the US has a clue that this is going on. Which it has been for 10 years.

The full impact of this is to be seen. What Nathan though appears to realise in his public statements is that all things intangible make up a large and unexplained part of shareholder value. The accountants don’t explain it, shareholders don’t ask about it, most business leaders don’t understand it. It still amazes me that people don’t even ask! IV is playing an arbitrage game; it knows what is valuable and it knows the value to it of what its buying. The sellers do not.

 This is grand and to be complimented. It will be hugely successful.



Spinal Tap and listening to your customers…

December 17, 2009

Capturing the feedback and results from your innovation is a crucial part of designing and implementing any good IP strategy . The brilliant webcomic xkcd reminds us that innovation involves directly listening to your customers. Giving them what they want isn’t just about coming up with new ideas and getting patents — sometimes it’s all […]

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Accounting, intangibles, and the balance sheet

May 19, 2009

We had a really interesting conversation with an accounting practice the other week about our approach to IP and their work on reporting within corporates on intangibles.  This was one of a series of conversations we’ve been having from people who see IP from the outside –> in,  while we here at ipVA are IP […]

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IP is the new oil

April 18, 2009

In IP Is Now Job One For Every Senior Executive (Forbes), Mark Blaxill and Ralph Eckardt describe IP’s role for the modern business, echoing many of the themes we’ve been discussing here at ipVA, especially around IP and the need to move it as a forward-looking business issue. As you might expect, I whole-heartedly agree […]

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Broken IP business structures

April 8, 2009

Andrew and I recently completed an article for Managing IP on Broken IP structures for the April issue, which is now out. Subscribers (including trial users) can now see the article up on the Managing IP site. The seeds from this article were planted back at the 2008 IP Business Conference in Amsterdam, when a […]

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GSK, patent pooling and open innovation

February 16, 2009

The Guardian on Friday had a story about GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) changing their strategy towards medicine in the developing world: Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline pledges cheap medicine for world’s poor. As part of this strategy, GSK is pledging to: Cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of […]

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Value of business intangibles over at IAM

January 26, 2009

Just a quick note to say that there is an involved discussion on how to value intangibles as part of a company, which will be expanded in an upcoming issue of IAM by Nir Kossovsky of IAFS. The gist: [T]hat corporate intangible values in the US … have collapsed over the last 12 to 18 […]

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Open innovation at IP Finance

January 9, 2009

At the kind invitation of power blogger and IP impresario Jeremy Philips, I have a guest post up on IP Finance about open innovation in business and what it means from a practical and legal perspective – Open innovation in a business world. From the post: So to the IP lawyer, open innovation means transactional […]

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Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers at LBF

November 25, 2008

I had the good fortune of attending the London Business Forum‘s event with Malcolm Gladwell this morning, where he discussed some of the themes in his latest book, Outliers, and what he’s been thinking about since. Having received a copy of the book only today as part of the event, I can only comment on […]

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