Sisvel has carved out a name for itself as a trusted partner to businesses for all their licensing IP needs – what has been the secret of your success?
Founded in 1982, Sisvel is one of the longest-running and still active companies operating in the licensing field. A key element of the company’s success is its ability to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing licensing market; we follow the evolution of IP regulations closely and propose licensing solutions, which strive to facilitate technology adoption and reduce friction that might otherwise hamper licensing transactions. A recent example of Sisvel’s creative approach is the Licensing Incentive Framework for Technologies (or LIFT), a new royalty scheme that eliminates the competitive disadvantage that might come with being one of the first companies to take a licence. Initially applied to WiFi 6, Sisvel is confident that LIFT will substantially help to foster the creation of a level playing field.
A deep understanding of technology is another necessary element for succeeding in this business, as the landscape is continuously evolving, becoming increasingly complex. Sisvel Technology, the R&D branch of the group, represents a competitive asset for the company. With its own research laboratories and team of engineers working on innovation and IP development projects, Sisvel Technology provides technical assistance to the group on IP matters and also supports new business activities. Its engineers provide leading services on IP rights, such as evaluation of the coverage and scope of patent portfolios, validity assessment and development of customised testing equipment to provide evidence of patented technology infringement.
Sisvel’s highly experienced management and its independence as a licensing administrator are other key factors that contribute to recognise the group as a valuable partner in the licensing ecosystem.
What changes has the firm observed in the international licensing landscape over the past 10 years – and how has this affected the services that Sisvel offers?
The past decade has been characterised by the emergence of new markets/verticals such as 5G and IoT. A significant increase of players on the market and a growing number of possible use cases has led to an increasing complexity in IP matters in the licensing landscape.
The rise in SEP litigation also highlights the tremendous growth and increase in value that standardised technologies have had over the last few years. Further, court decisions have played a fundamental role in providing clarity and transparency to the negotiation process. The EU Court of Justice decision in Huawei v ZTE in 2015 and the Sisvel v Haier decisions issued in 2020 by the German Federal Court of Justice are a clear example of how courts can provide guidance and clarity in licensing negotiations.
To resolve this complexity and avoid friction, aggregation is emphasised as a solution by all stakeholders, including policy-makers. In particular, patent pooling, offering a one-stop shop to implementers for patents essential to the same standard but owned by different parties, is widely recognised as the go-to form of aggregation and has been promoted by several tests of antitrust authorities.
To follow these trends, Sisvel’s business model is increasingly focused on patent pooling and partnering with the most renowned innovators in key technological areas. Moreover, it has also become more actively engaged in advocacy before the main governmental institutions, like the European Commission, closely following the evolution of IP matters and ensuring that the suggested guidelines are implemented in its licensing programmes. Sisvel also continues to attend the main IP conferences to highlight the importance of reducing friction in the market and creating a level playing field for both innovators and implementers.
What does inspiring leadership look like at Sisvel, and how has this evolved over the past decade?
Sisvel has always been guided by example; it was the same 40 years ago as it is now. The group leading the company today, a team of young, motivated, and skilled professionals, shares a great passion for this business; a passion they strive to instill every day in the team and in their business partners. Sisvel’s management is focused on constantly innovating its business model to reduce friction and promote a level playing field: it challenges the status quo, encourages outside-the-box thinking, always looks for better solutions for the licensing ecosystem and reaches ambitious targets by working together to reward innovation.
Trust and transparency are key values for the company, acting as guiding principles in the relationship with its employees as well as with partners and clients.
Sisvel works with clients across a range of industries, including wireless communication, digital video technologies, audio and video coding. How does the firm stay up to date on developments in multiple markets?
In today’s innovative ecosystem, technologies are increasingly sophisticated and constantly evolving. Sisvel Technology is at the forefront of helping the group keep pace with these continuous evolutions.
Since its founding in 2008, Sisvel Technology collaborates with entities in both the public and private sectors (particularly research centres and universities), allowing them to share ideas with like-minded professionals and exchange information on the latest technology developments.
Sisvel Technology is also involved in the activities of several standard-setting organisations (SSOs) (eg, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and the Digital Video Broadcasting Project). These organisations are some of the best examples of how to drive collaborative innovation, allowing for the creation of bleeding-edge technologies that can be easily adopted while insuring interoperability of products across manufacturers.
What is Sisvel doing regarding succession planning to recruit, mentor and retain the next generation of talent?
Recruiting the best talent available on the market is essential for the success of any company. This is even more true for a company working in a niche business like IP licensing. Sisvel believes in contributing to new resources specialised in this sector. The company is therefore in contact with key international universities with education programmes on innovation, intellectual property and technical domains of expertise, offering internships and thesis opportunities.
Sisvel is continuously innovating the licensing process for intellectual property; this is what attracts top executives to join the company – a shared objective to constantly improve how licensing transactions can be concluded, avoiding friction in the innovation ecosystem.
Nevertheless, recruiting is not enough. There is a great investment from Sisvel in training new employees, both through internal mentoring and training programmes, as well as through executive education provided by leading entities, particularly in the IP field.
To retain key talent, Sisvel invests in their professional development, supporting their further education and offering growth plans and opportunities to expand their careers inside the company across different offices around the globe.
Creating a balanced work environment and supporting a culture where employees can freely speak their mind are also elements that help people feel good about working for Sisvel.
How have client demands changed over the past few years and what impact has this had on the services offered by the firm?
While a lot of things change in the licensing market, conflict remains abundant.
Sisvel has been developing its programmes to reduce conflict (and confusion) in the market. The company provides, for example, copious information on the patents it licenses and the terms under which it licenses on its corporate website, creating an industry-leading level of transparency.
In addition to the innovative royalty concept of LIFT introduced in the WiFi 6 program, Sisvel has been harmonising the fragmented pool landscape for licensing 5G consumer electronics by creating a single pool for this field of technology. The group is also setting up a pool dedicated to licensing low-power cellular IoT products to simplify the licensing process for companies entering this new market.
Sisvel is focused on listening to the evolving needs of its partners and of the market. In fact, more than a decade ago, anticipating an industry trend well in advance, the group created in house expertise to support technical discussions that then became mainstream in the licensing of SEPs. In addition, Sisvel has developed competences to follow IP policy activities and apply the suggested guidelines in its licensing programmes. It also created an unusual skill – in the licensing industry, at least: to communicate important information relating to its programmes and to monitor how the market reacts to its licensing activities.
What changes have been introduced in response to remote working necessitated by the covid pandemic, and are any of these likely to remain in place in the long term?
Sisvel is an international company with eight offices in three continents, therefore, already technically equipped to work remotely. The daily work routine during the lockdown was quickly adapted to suit every aspect of its operations. Sisvel introduced new work schedules for the facilitation of patent pools, for carrying out technical discussions and for leading licensing negotiations. Ultimately, the pace of operations has increased and Sisvel has enjoyed widespread success that has defined new best practices while the licensing world resumes in-person operations.
However, given that fostering team spirit has been always an essential part of Sisvel’s success, the group believes that working in the same office with other colleagues and having the possibility of discussing and sharing different points of view increases productivity and the ability to continue innovating the way that Sisvel carries out its business activities.
Sisvel has recently launched a patent pool on WiFi 6 technology. What challenges and opportunities will this present?
Historically WiFi SEPs have not been easy to license and the WiFi market is extremely heterogeneous.
Sisvel has focused on creating a patent pool that represents world-leading innovators and high-quality patents. The company is also focused on aligning incentives between innovators and implementers, by designing a new royalty scheme that rewards companies who adopt the licence early: the aforementioned LIFT. This new pool represents a highly efficient way to clear the rights of major owners of SEPs for the WiFi 6 standard. The founding members - Huawei, Mediatek, Panasonic, Philips, SK Telecom and Wilus - represent some of the biggest contributors to the development of the WiFi 6 standard, all of them owning considerable portfolios that must be rewarded. Thanks to the introduction of LIFT, Sisvel expects to remove friction and provide adequate alignment between the interests of innovators and implementers.
For additional details on the Wi-Fi 6 patent pool and the new royalty payment scheme, please visit Sisvel’s website. You can also watch the LIFT video on Sisvel’s YouTube Channel.
Sisvel is a truly global firm, with eight nine subsidiaries on three continents. How does it manage to share expertise and disseminate learning across the whole organisation?
Making employees of various offices feel part of a single organisation is a priority for Sisvel. This starts by developing common values and sense of purpose, which translate into a clear and shared mission.
Shared values need to find their way in Sisvel’s day-to-day operations: for this reason, the group continues to invest in technological tools that help to facilitate activities between the different offices. Further, Sisvel is organised as a matrix organisation, which means that colleagues work in various interdisciplinary teams across multiple projects, disseminating information and preventing knowledge silos.
Sisvel also strives to organise events and meetings that bring together employees located in different offices to cultivate not only professional but also personal relationships.