Ahead of the inaugural IPBC Europe in Amsterdam, an interview with ThyssenKrupp IP chief Stephan Wolke

In March, we introduce a new member of the IPBC family when we launch the inaugural IPBC Europe in Amsterdam. Designed specifically for European businesses, the event will provide key insights to executives at companies based in Europe which are in the initial stages of creating long-term strategic value from their IP assets. It’s something that, historically, European businesses have not been as pro-active about as their contemporaries in the US and, now, Asia; but that is beginning to change. Our hope is that IPBC Europe will be a part of that process.

To that end, we have assembled a very strong line-up of speakers who have been there and done it as far as IP value creation is concerned. In a series of panel sessions and at a variety of networking breaks, they will be sharing their experiences and providing tips to delegates during the event, which runs from 20th to 21st March and is being held at the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam.

You can save €100 on the €950 registration fee if you sign up to attend before 9th February using code IAMBLOG. What’s more, there is also a special rate available for SMEs - please contact [email protected] for more details about this.

Among the confirmed speakers is Stephan Wolke, head of corporate intellectual property at ThyssenKrupp. On 20th March, he’ll be taking part in a session focused on building an effective pan-European IP litigation strategy. This will include discussion about the UPC, jurisdictional differences in Europe and the possibility of US-style patent trolls heading to Europe.

Ahead of the event, Stephan spoke to IAM about the importance of IP strategy and how the IP landscape is likely to develop over the coming years.

IAM: Can you tell us about your organisation and its IP function?

Stephan Wolke: ThyssenKrupp is an international engineering conglomerate with annual revenues of €40 billion. It is active in a variety of sectors, including automotive, industrial plants, marine vessels and submarines, and elevators and escalators, as well as logistics, trading and steel production. It has 155.000 employees and 600 legal entities across 25 business units. It is active in 80 countries.

The management of IP at ThyssenKrupp was set up within the past three years and key areas of responsibility include efficiently creating an effective IP shield for the businesses we support.

What does a successful IP strategy look like for a European company?

SW: It includes a number of things:

  • Building up an IP shield to secure the company’s businesses. This would include

    • setting the right IP ambition level (eg, in number of first filings) based on internal innovation and some competitor observation

    • inducing innovative ideas through all kind of idea creation formats (such as idea harvesting, TRIZ-methodology, key buying factor workshops)

    • supporting idea creation through incentive programmes and IP awareness programmes

  • But also deciding about and creating IP in an efficient way

    • solid and fully-costed thinking about what IP coverage is needed

    • a quantified way of thinking about IP risks

    • managing the internal/external service mix for IP creation

IAM: What tools do you need to build a top class IP strategy?

SW: Primarily, we need a filing and deadline management system as a backbone for our 100 people (IP lawyers, trademark lawyers and paralegals), as well as a competitor observation system with good translations.

IAM: Are European companies doing enough with their IP in comparison to companies in Asia and the US?

SW: European companies could do more, especially in order to set some IP against the flood from China which should be expected within the coming years.

IAM: What improvements would you make to the current European regulatory regime to benefit IP owners in Europe?

SW: One of the major topics which would help us are supporting tools to strengthen the importance of IP for companies. This could be:

  • All kinds of public communication and educational efforts (including education of undergraduates in what patents and brands are for)

  • But also financial measures such as patent boxes across European countries (ie, some tax benefit for creating IP)

Both action streams are already seen in China, on a strategic level as well as on an operational level.

IAM: What are you looking for from your legal and other intellectual property services providers?

SW: Professionalism and state-of-the-art tools at a reasonable, transparent price.

IAM: What will the IP landscape look like in 2020?

SW: I anticipate a further rise in the amount of Chinese IP, increasing creation of IP in the Internet of Things/Industry 4.0 realm, and some first use of artificial intelligence in IP creation.

Stephan will be joined by over 30 senior IP experts presenting at IPBC Europe on 20th and 21st March at the Hotel Okura in Amsterdam. To find out more, visit www.IPBCEurope.com – register before 9th February using code IAMBLOG to save €100.

Exclusive rates available for SMEs, please contact [email protected] for further information about price and eligibility.

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