24 Jan
2018

Ahead of IPBC Europe in March, Uber's patent transactions chief talks strategy and policy

The speaking faculty for our IPBC Europe event, taking pace in Amsterdam on 20th and 21st March, has now been finalised – and, as you’d expect, it’s a strong one.

If you act now, you can save €100 on the €950 registration fee, by using code IAMBLOG. What’s more, there is also a special rate available for SMEs - please contact [email protected] for more details about this.

IPBC Europe is the newest member of the IPBC family and has been purpose built to provide key insights to executives at companies looking to build IP management strategies that are a fully integrated part of the overall business. The members of the speaking faculty represent that constituency, but also include highly experienced corporate IP professionals who have long track records in IP value creation. They will be sharing their knowledge in Amsterdam and what they have to say is not to be missed.

Among this group is Kurt Brasch, head of patent transactions at UBER. Prior to this he held senior positions at both Motorola Mobility and Google – and undoubtedly knows his way around IP value. This is why he is recognised as one of the world’s leading IP strategists. On 20th March, Brasch will be discussing recent developments in the United States and China, and how they affect corporate IP decision-making.

Ahead of the event, he spoke to IAM about the work he is doing now, the principles of IP strategy creation and about how he views the European IP landscape.

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

Kurt Brasch: Uber's IP team is very strong, but also small.  We are only 12 people under our chief IP counsel, John Mulgrew.  From a patent perspective, we have been aggressively growing our patent portfolio both organically and with strategic acquisitions.  My role is patent transactions, but up until now, the focus has been primarily on acquisitions.

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

KB: At Uber, we've had the ability to build our strategy from the ground up, so I will answer it as we have built ours.  The key is to identify and strategise all potential IP issues: protecting against industry threats and NPEs; patenting vs trade secrets; internal vs external IP prosecution and management; software and tools needed; where to patent; and protecting our brands worldwide.  You need to consider litigation potential, strategies to defend in court, and how to select outside counsel. 

At Uber, we built the strategy, but we review and modify it constantly.  Early on, you probably want to review it quarterly or semi-annually.  As your business matures, reviewing annually is appropriate.  The most important aspect of building your strategy is finding the right people to implement it.  At Uber we have the best group of patent, trademark and litigation professionals in the industry.  

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

KB: Europe was and still is home to some of the great IP organisations in the world.  I've always believed that the IP sophistication level in Europe is as high, if not higher, than other areas of the world.  Geography has always been the biggest issue for European companies.  It has always been easier to protect IP in the US, but the emergence of the Unified Patent Court will be crucial for European companies going forward.

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

KB: From our outside counsel, we are looking for strong drafting and prosecution strategies.  Our goal is not quantity - we are focused on having the strongest quality portfolio in the industry, so we need a strong yield from our filings.  On patent analysis, we are very focused on algorithmic tools to help us sort and identify quality patents  We have been very lucky to find service providers that have that capability.

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

KB: I've been public about my belief that the pendulum will start shifting in the direction of patent owners over the next few years.  I have also been preaching the need for stability in the industry, meaning that we don't want the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction.  Stability is best for sellers and buyers, and licensors and licensees alike, and would also lead to more licensing as opposed to litigation.  One way I expect this to happen is through a re-emergence of pools.  Those entities have a great opportunity as the pendulum swings back.  But they will need strong execution by corralling high percentages of patents in each category and providing "fair" pricing to licensees.

Kurt will be joined by over 35 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.

Joff Wild

Author | Editor-in-chief

[email protected]

Joff Wild