Seher Hussain

A deal involving a tech company based in New Zealand shows how a start-up can strategically leverage IP to drive forward its business. PowerbyProxi has just secured $4 million in funding from Samsung Ventures, largely on the back of a world class patent portfolio it has built over recent years. The Auckland outfit has developed wireless charging technology for consumer devices such as smartphones and television remotes. Alongside the funding, Samsung Electro-Mechanics has also entered into a strategic partnership with PowerbyProxi and agreed to license its wireless power IP and technology.

Said to be considering an IPO, PowerbyProxi has potentially hit the jackpot. Now every component shipped by Samsung with its technology embedded inside will bring the Kiwi business revenue and perhaps pave the way for eventual global commercial success. Without its investment in developing a strong portfolio of IP, this would not have happened. It also shows that patent strategy is not just for big technology companies based in North America, Europe and Asia’s largest countries.

With a population of approximately 4.5 million people New Zealand has a small domestic consumer base, so in order to grow local companies need to export and build their market share overseas. For a number of reasons, this has not happened as much as it could have done. Legislators are aware of the problem and have recently passed an updated Patent Law which, among other things, is meant to “represent a significant step in supporting innovation in New Zealand…and make it easier for New Zealand businesses to export and grow”. As reported on this blog previously, claims that the legislation outlaws software patents are well wide of the mark. However, what they could do is lead Kiwi companies to believe that this is the case; something which may impede their patenting strategies and so have an adverse effect on their growth opportunities. That would be a real shame.

PowerbyProxi serves as a blueprint for other New Zealand-based start-ups. Spun out from the University of Auckland’s engineering department, it owns 126 patents and has invested its resources in building a strong global IP position in the cutting-edge field of wireless technology. A report from Pike Research forecasts that the market for wireless power systems will be worth more than $30 billion by 2020. “Our research identified PowerbyProxi as a leader in wireless power technology based on its expertise, track record and comprehensive patent portfolio,” Samsung Electro-Mechanic’s director of wireless charging development is quoted as saying. Patent-haters in New Zealand and beyond should take note.