Given the extreme speed of global events – especially over the past few years – how do you keep clients’ patent strategies current?
This question is most timely. The last few years have seen such events as the pandemic, regional and global economic downturns, upticks and even inflationary pressures, not to mention global geo-political events, trade disputes, and even armed conflicts and subsequent measures and sanctions. While some events have required minimal adjustment to clients’ intellectual property and patent strategies, others have required clients to evolve their strategies at a rapid pace. For clients in our ongoing strategic IP programme, our team monitors significant events that could affect (and require adjustment of) their IP strategies. When necessary, we reach out to these clients with thoughts on what the changes might mean for their strategy and offer input on what timely adjustments they could make to keep said strategy at an optimum. Clients therefore have an opportunity to finetune their strategies and hopefully avoid the need for an abrupt change of course.
What is your proudest achievement over the past 12 months?
On a personal level, hands down, it has been having more time to spend with my kids. A ‘no-brainer’, I know, but sometimes we forget and must remind ourselves of what is truly important in life. From a professional perspective, despite strong economic and environmental headwinds, I am proud of having substantially grown the business in China, rocketing it up the IP value chain. Within the last 12 months, we have advised some of the world’s leading companies in emerging technologies such as AI and quantum computing, as well as others like semiconductors and alternative energy vehicles. Helping these companies navigate key economic and geo-political challenges has also been immensely satisfying.
How has the patent litigation landscape in China changed over the course of your career?
China’s patent litigation landscape was already vibrant when I arrived in 2005, but it lacked sophistication. Courts in some jurisdictions were already issuing thoughtful and well-reasoned judgments, while others were still a work in progress. Almost all our briefs were from foreign plaintiffs; favourable outcomes were assured, except in rare cases. Fast forward 15 years to a vibrant and more sophisticated patent litigation landscape. Last year, 640,000 IP litigations were filed, with a greater number of patent cases than ever. Most of the team’s clients are still foreign, but now the proportion of plaintiffs and defendants is almost evenly split. Local adversaries have learned a lot, caught up and in some cases outflanked their foreign adversaries.
What effect – if any – are you seeing the climate crisis have on innovation and development?
While the quote “never let a good crisis go to waste” may be most famously attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, China seems to have taken a page from his book. China is powering ahead with its China Manufacturing 2025 strategy and has put technologies to combat the climate crisis front and centre. The central government continues to offer tremendous incentives for firms to innovate technologies (including clean energy, electric vehicles and AI and IoT), which are helping to reduce carbon emissions. In China at least, the climate crisis seems to have super-charged innovation and development. Long-term results remain to be seen.
What tips can you share for engaging – and ensuring buy-in from – key stakeholders?
IP strategists must learn to credibly link strategy changes with key business outcomes. Illustrating the benefits of relevant changes to businesses (ie, higher sales and market valuation, among others) incentivises management, investors and shareholders. For other key stakeholders, including employees, resilience in a competitive environment and employment stability for the workforce may be most motivating.
Consulting stakeholders before and during the process of devising an IP strategy is another way of achieving buy-in. Some stakeholders will know the business better and will have gained insights over a longer period of time than professional advisors ever could. Soliciting their input can facilitate strategy acceptance, especially if such input is credited and concerns addressed.
Perhaps the most important way to achieve successful final outcomes is for professional advisers to enable implementation of IP strategies by defining the terms of engagement to include ground-level execution of recommended actions, watching the strategy take shape and help solving challenges along the way.
Head of IP Strategy - China
Elliot Papageorgiou is head of IP Strategy at Gowling WLG in China, advising leading companies on creating, growing, commercialising and enforcing IP portfolios in the Asia-Pacific region. He offers strategic advice to international clients, with a special focus on IP value growth and extraction, portfolio development and cross-border IP enforcement and litigation. Mr Papageorgiou, who has degrees from Murdoch University, Monash University and the University of Oxford, regularly teaches university China IP courses.