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AIPPI 2022: Speakers tout benefits of open innovation

Isabella Fu (left) and Jason Skinder (right) delve into open innovation.

Sharing IP can be good for social action, crypto and employee retention, said AIPPI panellists from Microsoft, Lear Corporation and Block

There are a lot of benefits to open innovation and allowing businesses to share data and code, according to panellists at AIPPI’s World Congress yesterday, September 11, in San Francisco.

Lawyers from Microsoft, Lear and Block said a certain amount of sharing could help companies retain talent and improve technologies.

Isabella Fu, associate general counsel at Microsoft in Washington, noted that attitudes towards open source had shifted.

“When I first joined Microsoft in 2003, the view was that open source was a cancer. That’s not necessarily the case today, so you can see how a company can transform,” she said.

Apple had a similar change, according to Jason Skinder, chief intellectual property counsel at Lear in Detroit, who worked for the iPhone maker from 2011 to 2017.

He noted that Apple was a very secretive company but was starting to loosen up, adding that it was difficult for any firm to attract and retain talent unless they contributed to open source.

Businesses should consider the benefits of sharing data too, said speakers.

Fu noted that Microsoft and other companies signed onto the Open Source Climate initiative to make data available to fight climate change.

Companies’ willingness to share data will vary depending on their business strategies, said counsel.

Skinder, who worked at Honeywell from 2020 to March 2022, said his former employer realised its products generated tonnes of data and that it could sell this information to customers.

Honeywell was fine with sharing as much data as it had because the data itself wasn’t valuable, said Skinder.

“What was valuable was what they did with the data,” he added.

But he noted that the company kept its model and insights from the model proprietary.

Perfect pledges

Speakers also touted the benefits of patent pledges and the promises not to sue each other for IP infringement.

Fu said Microsoft had signed the Open COVID Pledge and the Low Carbon Patent Pledge, agreeing to make its patents freely available to fight the pandemic and climate change.

But such agreements could be difficult to implement in certain circumstances.

Max Sills, counsel at Block in San Francisco, said he led the Crypto Open Patent Alliance, in which members promised never to use their crypto patents against anyone except for defensive purposes.

“My job is to persuade people not to sue each other. I thought that it would be a much easier job than it was, but it’s a hard job and I don’t know why,” he said.

He added that innovation was happening fast in the industry and that inventors didn't need monopolies to be creative.

Some patent holders may have been hesitant to sign the pledge because the industry was new and they were scared, he said.

Perfect protection

Patent protection was still important to a lot of companies even if they were contributing code to open source, said panellists.

Fu at Microsoft said open-source licensors could make the use of code conditional. They could require others to promise not to use the code for certain purposes or not to sue them.

“You still need a patent portfolio. If you don’t have those rights, you can’t get people playing in your sandbox the way you want,” she said.

Sebastian Wündisch, lawyer at Noerr in Germany, also spoke on the panel, and Calum Smyth, partner at Wiggin in London, moderated the talk.

AIPPI is taking place this week at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco.


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