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The most influential people in Europe and Africa

Managing IP’s Top 50 list picks out the individuals shaping the IP industry worldwide. The 2012 Europe selection highlights the growing importance of campaign organisations such as the Open Rights Group and The Pirate Party

The top 50 in Europe:

Joaquín Almunia
Benoît Battistelli
Judge Colin Birss
António Campinos
James Dyson
Paulin Edou Edou
Carsten Fink
Judge Klaus Grabinski
Jonathan Ive
Jan Kees de Jager
Jim Killock
Kerstin Jorna
Klaus-Heiner Lehne
Florian Müller
The internet user
Richard Vary

Joaquín Almunia, European Commission

Consumers are being "held hostage" by smartphone patent litigation. That's the view of
European Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, and he's one man who can do something about it. In a speech last month, he urged telecoms companies to work together in standards-setting organisations to establish rules on FRAND licensing.

The Spanish politician, in charge of competition in the EU since February 2010, has already made his mark. He has threatened to fine Google over its search results, and in April the Commission launched an investigation into Motorola Mobility (now also owned by Google) for FRAND abuse. The European Commission has the power punish companies found to have infringed competition rules with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, as Microsoft and AstraZeneca have found to their cost. And Almunia, a law and economics graduate and former think tanker, recently argued that there is no conflict between protecting IP rights and promoting competition: "IPR policy and antitrust are complementary. Antitrust enforcement does not question the use of IPR but it must fight the abuse of IPR."

If you own or manage high-tech patents, he is a man to watch – and fear.

Further reading:

Smartphone wars turn against Apple
Microsoft sets out Motorola complaint
Commissioners set out IP plans

Benoît Battistelli, European Patent Office

There are some patent practitioners who thought that Benoît Battistelli's time as president of the EPO would be characterised by a rather more hands-off style of management than that of his sleeves-rolled-up predecessor Alison Brimelow. But two years into his term he has overseen technological changes that might ease some of Office's existing problems and anticipate new ones: backlogs, the rise in Asian-language prior art and the shift to automated processing.

This year the EPO revealed it wants to set up a digital patent system that will process paperless applications from start to finish. It also launched a new six-language machine translation service in conjunction with Google to improve access to patent documents. The IP office and the Californian company (not a European SME, Battistelli lamented at the project's unveiling) now want to expand the service to cover all 28 languages of the EPO member states plus Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.

But Battistelli doesn't just care about what goes on in the EPO's offices in Munich, the Hague, Vienna and Berlin. The politician in him (he is deputy mayor in charge of culture of Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris) is also keen to be closer to the decision-making action in Brussels. This year the EPO appointed former Commission IP official Margot Fröhlinger to lead its patent law and international affairs team as well as hiring an EU policy adviser in Brussels. Given the EPO's central role in handling unitary patents under the proposed – but not yet finalised – unitary patent package, Battistelli could play a more important role than ever in shaping IP policy in Europe.

Further reading:

Sharp views at the International Patent Forum
EPO and Google launch machine translation service
How the EPO got its president

Judge Colin Birss, UK Patents County Court

The London courts used to be known as the Rolls-Royce of patent litigation. On that logic, the new rules make the Patents (in reality, IP) County Court the Mini Cooper: sleek, compact and above all affordable. And the judge implementing them, former high-flying barrister and bee-keeper Colin Birss, fits the same mould: young, innovative, enthusiastic and open. It was Birss who hit the headlines in July, for example, when he ruled that the design of Samsung's (non-infringing) tablets is simply "not as cool" as Apple's.

Less than two years in, he has overseen the introduction of caps on recoverable fees and damages and established rules on issues such as transfer of cases. He's also given judgments in matters as diverse as counterfeit Vivienne Westwood fashions, file sharing and software patents. The only question is: with Birss probably on a fast track to the High Court, who can step into his shoes?

Further reading:

More options for patent disputes around Europe
PCC could be set for big-ticket cases
PCC judge explains cost cap
Birss pitches for work
Exclusive: new PCC judge revealed

OHIM's president says he isn't sure whether he should be included in a list of the most influential 50 people in intellectual property. This has to be feigned modesty – though he does suggest that the hundreds of members of the European Parliament that voted down ACTA the previous day, and delivered one of the biggest ever defeats to the European Commission, are more significant. (For our take on that issue, see the Top 50 entries for Jim Killock and the German Pirate Party.)....

Read the full interview with António Campinos

James Dyson

British politicians like to make speeches praising the country's entrepreneurial designers and inventors and calling for the UK to nurture more of them. When they do, it's a rare speech that doesn't invoke James Dyson. The man behind a range of innovative household gadgets is cited as proof that clever inventors can turn their products into world-beating businesses.

But what makes Dyson particularly influential is that he doesn't only devote himself to developing new products. Instead, he speaks up about the importance of design, and the IP rights that protect it, to the British economy. Although he took flak for moving some of his company's manufacturing facilities overseas, he does much to encourage a new generation of home-grown inventors.

He has served as a member of the Design Council, which advises British businesses and public bodies on design, and as a trustee of the Design museum. He has also set up the eponymous James Dyson Foundation, which offers engineering workshops to young people and sends out product analysis kits to schools to boost children's interest in the nuts and bolts of product design.

But it is Dyson's condemnation of IP protection in China that attracts most media attention. Old China hands have often questioned his strategy of publicly detailing the problems his company has faced from copycat businesses and shady officials, suggesting that coded censure and behind-the-scenes discussions do more to encourage reform. Yet Dyson's willingness to speak up about IP infringement in China ensures it continues to receive policy makers' attention – for which he wins the thanks of many IP owners.

Further reading:

Dyson victory sets an example in China
Dyson's China claims questioned
Dyson too negative on China IP enforcement

Paulin Edou Edou, OAPI

Established in 1962, the African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI) is the larger of the two African IP associations, covering 16 French-speaking countries across western and central Africa, with over 150 million inhabitants. Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, it has also been seen as the most successful organisation, with member states implementing OAPI regulations where ARIPO's have not. For multinational companies, Africa is a key strategic market for the next 10 years, and OAPI director general Paulin Edou Edou will be central to making sure IP concerns don't hold back growth that could lift millions out of poverty.

Further reading:

OAPI joins industrial designs treaty
OAPI and national TM issues clarified
Make the most of Africa's IP organisations
Will South Sudan get its IP right?

Carsten Fink, WIPO

There are not many points that pro- and anti-IP campaigners can agree on. But one note of harmony is the oft-repeated call for more reliable and independent data on intellectual property. With IP taking on a bigger public profile, it has become clear that there is simply not enough well-reasoned economic analysis of its impact, benefits and potential drawbacks.

That's probably why governments and international bodies from Munich to Santiago have in the past few years appointed economists to measure IP metrics. They even now have a global network. At the heart of this is Carsten Fink, formerly of the World Bank and now Chief Economist at WIPO. Since he joined the Geneva organisation, it has set up a seminar series, launched a World IP Report and published a series of papers. It's early days, but the work of Fink and his counterparts worldwide could lead to a much deeper, subtler understanding of the role of IP rights in the economy.

Further reading:

Interview: Carsten Fink on the World IP Report
China saves world from fall in patent filings
Carsten Fink biography (on WIPO site)
Carsten Fink speech (video on WIPO site)

Judge Klaus Grabinski, Federal Court of Justice, Germany

Judges in continental Europe often don't have the profile of their counterparts in the US and UK. Most of them become judges at a young age, and proceed up the career ladder. Cases are dealt with quickly and largely on paper: judges don't often have the opportunity to make telling putdowns in court or witty flourishes in judgments.

Klaus Grabinski, now of the Federal Court of Justice in Germany, is in many ways typical: after university, he joined the Düsseldorf District Court and, six months later, began to specialise in patent litigation (Düsseldorf is the main forum for patent infringement disputes in Germany and, indeed, Europe). In 2009 he was promoted to the Federal Court of Justice, and handles patent appeals. But in other ways he is breaking the mould: he has become well known as a speaker and panellist on European litigation and in particular the plans for a unified patent court. With the unitary patent plans now closer than ever to being realised, many expect him to feature prominently in a future pan-European patent court.

Further reading:

Interview: Grabinski discusses EU patent reform
Avoid foreign filing pitfalls – AIPLA Annual Conference 2012
Judges voice patent concerns

Jonathan Ive, Apple

The smartphone patent wars are the big story in IP this year, and Apple is at the centre of them. But beneath the hype many of the battles are really about design features such as icons and keyboard shortcuts. Apple's litigation over the iPad in the EU is partly over its arsenal of hundreds of registered Community designs, and the company's late founder Steve Jobs was named on dozens of US design patents.

The man most associated with Apple's ground-breaking emphasis on product design, though, is not Jobs but Jonathan Ive, the London designer lured to California in 1996 to work on the iMac. He was recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth and in 2003 was named the first Designer of the Year. He recently said: "Our products are tools and we don't want design to get in the way. We're trying to bring simplicity and clarity, we're trying to order the products."

Further reading

UK fast tracks Apple-Samsung design case
A unique system for protecting designs
Design patents: getting ahead
The lawyers who win from the smartphone wars
The strategy behind the smartphone war
Designs deserve a second look
Designs take centre stage

Jan Kees de Jager, Dutch Minister of Finance

Jan Kees de Jager has been an innovator in patent tax incentives, and so at the forefront of a trend that has spread around Europe. The Innovation Box regime in The Netherlands was first introduced in 2007, to encourage businesses by reducing taxes on income derived from patents and other intangibles. Similar regimes were introduced in Luxembourg (2008), Switzerland (2011) the UK and Hungary (both 2012). But de Jager, as State Secretary for Finance and now Minister for Finance, has consistently improved the Dutch scheme, with the latest in 2011 effectively reducing tax levels from 25% to 5%.

Further reading:

Who has the best IP tax regime?
Why the patent box may not attract investment to UK
Patent-related tax benefit for Dutch corporations

Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group agrees that many of the protests this year against ACTA were naïve. "When some people start thinking about issues such as freedom online, they leap to quite extreme conclusions," he says. "And most didn't understand the details of the agreement."....

Read the full interview with Jim Killock

Kerstin Jorna must hope she is on something of a roll.

Less than six months after she took on the job of head of the IP directorate within the European Commission's internal market team, European member states have agreed a deal on a unitary patent package that had eluded them for more than 30 years and which proponents say could slice thousands of dollars off the cost of patenting in Europe....

Read the full interview with Kerstin Jorna

Christian Louboutin

Christian Louboutin would no doubt rather be on a list of the top 50 designers, but as he has recently become the plaintiff in a case that could determine the strength of colour trade marks, he suddenly finds himself an IP influencer as well....

Read the full story on Christian Louboutin

Klaus-Heiner Lehne, European Parliament

Throughout June and July, the story of Europe's attempts to finalise a unitary patent package seemed to have more twists and turns than a detective novel. Less than a week after heads of government of 25 member states (Italy and Spain are on the sidelines for now) revealed they had reached agreement, members of the European Parliament declined to back it.

The reason they did so says much about the growing confidence of MEPs to influence decision making in Europe. In the case of the unitary patent package, they were particularly aggrieved that member states recommended removing a set of contentious articles (widely disliked by patent owners) from the agreement that would have given the Court of Justice of the EU the right to rule in certain patent law cases.

Klaus-Heiner Lehne was one of three MEPs from the JURI Legal Affairs Committee given the task late last year of negotiating a behind-closed-doors deal that would be acceptable to the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. Now many MEPs believe that member state politicians reneged on the agreement. "By unilaterally denouncing the results of the trilateral negotiations, the Council acted treacherously," wrote one German MEP on her blog.

MEPs will now decide whether and when to hold a new vote on the unitary patent package. The recommendations of Klaus-Heiner Lehne – a well-respected MEP whose qualifications in law and physics gives him more credibility than many on this issue – will be crucial to securing the future, and form, of the unitary patent and the court.

Further reading:

What next for the unitary patent package?
Paris gets unitary patent central court, London and Munich to hear sector-specific cases
Key parliamentary committee favours unified patent court

When Florian Müller appeared on this list seven years ago, most patent attorneys regarded him as an adversary. The computer whizz kid-turned-entrepreneur was a leading force in the fight against software patents, helping activists defeat the EU's plans for a computer-implemented inventions directive. Now he's the leading source of data and analysis on another patent battle: the multi-front global smartphone wars....

Read the full interview with Florian Müller

John, the internet user

John is a student. He downloads music from file-sharing sites. Not obsessively, not frequently, but casually. Statistics show that as an average student he is unlikely to think there is anything wrong in this. The musicians seem to be making enough money. Plus the chances of punishment are remote – no one he knows (or anyone they know) has ever been contacted about file sharing. The same goes for counterfeit goods sold online.

With every marketing department in the world targeting him for 'likes', 'shares' or some other precious engagement with their social media, is John perhaps the most influential person in intellectual property today?

Further reading:

Editorial: Drop the Tenenbaum case
Letter from the editor: statistics
How to harness social media

Richard Vary, Nokia

Richard Vary has been at the centre of many of intellectual property's biggest trends and debates in Europe, and in the process has become one of its most influential in-house counsel. He has been vocal on the unitary patent and at the centre of various rounds of litigation, telling Managing IP's International Patent Forum in April that he had been involved in 84 patent cases in recent years. Perhaps most significant have been the cases against IPCom, most of which Nokia has won. Indeed, of the 63 IPCom patents that have so far come to judgment, none have been found valid as granted.

Further reading:

How to play the European litigation game
Sharp views at the International Patent Forum
Nokia fights off €12 billion patent case

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Article Comments

It's interesting that there were fewer women this year than last - though there are more in the other sections, and two in the Top 10. Perhaps there's a case for a list of the most influential women in IP. That would build on awards elsewhere, such as the Europe Women in Business Law Awards:

Simon Crompton Jul 25, 2012

One single female. And for good measure, the Internet user John and the guy named Paulin are men, too. That's fresh, guys.

Petter Jul 24, 2012

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