Joff Wild

Thoughts and observations from the second day of this year’s IP Business Congress:

PMBs – Here’s a new term that may or may not enter the lexicon: the Predatory Monopolist Bully (PMB). It was used by Loudon Owen of Patent Monetization Inc, who is a VC and as chairman of i4i played a key role in the company’s US Supreme Court triumph over Microsoft in 2011. Although he did not define in detailed terms what a PMB is, Owen may just have invented a phrase which is as usefully pejorative about the self-interested approach big-tech companies often display with regard to IP (no names, no pack drill) as “troll” is for some big-tech companies that are not keen to see others asserting patent rights against them. Small, innovative companies can destroy big, lethargic giants, said Owen, but they have to be prepared to fight.

Language – As ever, the way in which IP professionals speak – or, more accurately, often fail to speak – in understandable terms to the boardroom was a major theme of the day. If they are to be take seriously at C-suite level, IP leaders have to learn to talk the language of the boardroom, said Malcolm Meeks of Infineon; for Ruud Peters of Philips, that means learning to speak clearly and plainly about the bottom line.  Right now, if you want to scare a board of directors, tell them that the next meeting is about patents, said Loudon Owen – suddenly everyone seems to come down with flu! For me, Ralph Eckardt of 3LP nailed it: if IP professionals cannot explain how IP creates value, then they do not deserve to be anywhere near the boardroom in the first place.

Gym – I really need to go to the ..

Passion – The next President of the American Intellectual Property Law Association will be Wayne Sobon, vice president and general counsel of Inventergy Inc and previously chief IP counsel at Rambus. I would not be surprised if, when he takes on his role at the AIPLA, he will be one of the first leaders of that organisation to come from an NPE. Speaking in a personal capacity, Sobon took part in a debate in which, alongside David Schwartz of Chicago-Kent College of Law, he spoke in favour of the motion “This house believes that the America Invents Act should be a legislative line in the sand and that no more reform of the US patent system is needed”. Opposing were Boston University’s Michael Meurer and Cisco VP of IP Dan Lang. Sobon spoke with a great deal of passion and was not afraid to use pretty straightforward language when talking against what he clearly considers to be the folly of another major rewriting of the US patent law, just two years after the passing of the America Invents Act. If Sobon takes what he showed yesterday into his stint at the AIPLA, it could get pretty lively! The motion, incidentally, was carried with a strong majority. But fair play to Meurer and Lang for taking their arguments to what was always going to be a sceptical audience. This kind of face-to-face exchange of views needs to be encouraged.  Both sides of the current argument should be regularly taken outside of their comfort zones.

Twitter – We have quite a few people sending Tweets from the various sessions. You can follow all the action at #IPBC13.

IP Hall of Fame – A great evening at the Fairmont Copley last night. There were over 450 in attendance at the IP Hall of Fame Gala Dinner and we were lucky enough to have among them three of this year’s inductees (Miles Alexander, Peter Dirk Siemsen and Herbert Wamsley), as well as Alan Pilson, of counsel at Ladas & Parry, who collected the induction certificate for the late Stephen Ladas (see photo here). There were some very gracious speeches from individuals who have made a huge contribution to IP’s development in many parts of the world. Quip of the night was from Alexander, who explained why his marriage had lasted so long: “My wife and I are both in love with the same man.”

Monetisation in pharma and biotech – A truly outstanding panel discussion on the IP monetisation challenges facing pharma and biotech companies moderated by former GSK IP chief Sherry Knowles and featuring Michal Preminger, Executive director, Harvard University Office of Technology Development; Bart Newland, Vice-president and chief IP counsel, Biogen Idec; and Phil Johnson, Chief IP Counsel, Johnson & Johnson. According to Newland the biopharma sector is really missing a trick in its failure to focus on generating more value from the IP that it owns. There are, he said, a number of companies in the sector with under-utilised IP but no mechanisms for using it more: there’s a gaping hole for someone to fill if they can provide a solution. What that may be, suggested Knowles, is a third party – companies themselves are hamstrung by time and regulatory restraints, and just do not have the incentives. What’s more, said Johnson, secondary licensing opportunities are never going to be a priority to companies with huge and established turnovers;  J&J generated $75 billion last year – how do you get a CFO to even begin to take secondary licensing seriously when it will never come close to generating even a fraction of that amount? But spinning things out to a third party who does have the incentive to monetise may be a solution. If there is one area in the life sciences sector that is ripe for monetisation it seems as if it is medical devices. Johnson stated that J&J collected $3.5 billion as a result of infringements to its products over an 18-month period and observed that the time to market is much quicker, meaning that there is more exploitation potential in terms of patent lifetime; what’s more, said Newland, multiple patents might be involved in one product, something that also creates advantages to leverage a medtech portfolio. Readers will recall that it is an area Acacia moved into a few months ago.

Beer – Looking forward to one tonight when the conference ends. What was that about the gym?