Politicians around the world increasingly tout the
importance of intellectual property as a 21st
century economic engine. As interest in IP grows, so has the
desire to form marketplaces that where IP producers can sell or
license their intellectual property.
However, according to some observers, the goal of the
well-running IP marketplace is still a way off.
One challenge is that SMEs, often held up as the
foundational players in these exchanges, often do not have the
IP knowledge that Managing IP readers take for granted. Elton
Leung (no relation), an inventor in Hong Kong, said that a lot
of inventors he met, though good engineers with innovative
were not very savvy about the business aspects of their
work. One consequence is that properly securing IP rights
is a secondary concern, if at all.
Erin-Michael Gill of MDB
Capital also noted this problem.
Speaking with Managing IP last year, he said that
start-ups need to secure IP protection in order to ward off
early competitors and secure investors, though many may not
do so due to limited resources.
Hidero Niioka of IPEXC
makes a similar point, arguing that IP is a needed stepping
stone for growth. When speaking to start-ups, he warns them
that many venture capitalists will not back companies that do
not have their IP rights in order.
"Until you secure your IP, most investors will not seriously
consider you, because as a start-up, your only real assets are
your ideas," he said.
This challenge was highlighted at a
talk at Hong Kong’s Cyberport Entrepreneurship
Centre on Wednesday on the importance of IP for start-ups.
The audience, made up mostly of local entrepreneurs, were very
interested in the subject, but it was clear that many
understandably spend the bulk of their energy on building their
products rather than studying IP law. At one point, one
audience member asked about for an explanation about the
difference between a patent and a trade mark.
Even SMEs that understand the importance of IP often have
trouble finding the needed services for securing protection and
to participate in an IP marketplace. The Fraunhofer
MOEZ Institute’s IP Industry
Base (IPIB) attempts to address this issue by providing a
database of service providers, from legal professionals to
financial services to IP consultants. The database launched a
new feature this week called "Who has experiences" that may
help SMEs find legal services suited to their inventions. The
feature allows user to enter an IPC
code, which then generates a list of legal professionals that
have experience with that specific type of patent.
Lutz Maicher of Fraunhofer MOEZ explained the data behind
the feature: "It’s quite simple, really. If you
have a patent application in the EPO, it always states who
supported the application, and for each patent, we have the IPC
category. We crawled through the EPO’s data for
the last 20 years, and then tallied how many filings a firm has
done for each category."
Of course, the need for better SME engagement with IP is
just one obstacle to mature and well-functioning marketplaces.
Other observers, such as
Guy Proulx of Transpacific IP, said
that he thinks there are other challenges, such as the need for
more investors with both resources and sophisticated IP
management strategies on the buy side of the equation.
What do you think? What else is needed to build a robust IP