Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Think IP Strategy Workshop 23 November 2011 Shanghai

By Mathijs van Basten Batenburg

On this early morning (November 23, 2011) I visited a workshop that the consultancy “Think IP Strategy” (TIS) was so kind to provide in Shanghai. The audience consisted mainly of IP counsels of larger corporations and before the presentations we enjoyed ourselves with exchanging war stories ranging from local competitors copying hotels to ex-employees starting factories next door, coincidentally making the same products. Chinese reality is always a great source for IP stories that get the laughing muscles warmed-up in the morning.

Seated behind a complimentary piece of paper and a familiar red and black Staedtler design pencil (made by Cheunghwa) I listened to our host of the day – Mr Duncan Bucknell- who introduced us to TIS and the way they aim to help their clients. He stressed the importance of a broad approach towards a company’s IP strategy and illustrated the importance of information gathering by a story about Alexander the Great who defeated a larger Persian army just by getting his intelligence right.

The key point Duncan made was that since business is getting ever more international, this means that the way a company will have to manage its IPR will increasingly call for an international perspective. Given the wide array of possible IPR, and the ways to utilize these, it therefore stands to reason that these days an effective approach towards IPR management can not simply be limited to claiming and enforcing IPR on a case to case basis. Companies will ever more often have to formulate a comprehensive strategy to successfully handle their IPR protection, taking into account their business strategy –such as the markets relevant to them- and preferred ways to use IPR to defend their positions. Obviously TIS’s focus is on advising on these issues. Law firms generally have a deep knowledge of their own jurisdiction but might miss the international and business perspectives. TIS aims to bridge this gap.

From Persian elephants that got routed by Greek archers we moved to the ancient game of “围棋”, known in English as “Go”. Apeng Shang listed many aspects that were good to bear in mind when working out your IP strategy. Quite a few sounded more like good business practise to me, such as improving the communication between legal and other departments, or working from a strategy instead of ad-hoc. However, although a lot of these points might sound like “common sense”, I have to admit that also in large multinational companies these bases are not always covered.

The third part was a nice horror story about a Chinese company that had a bright (patentable) idea, but missed out because they didn’t play their cards right. Step by step the company sunk deeper in a quagmire of issues, being out manoeuvred by competitors and abandoned by its business partners. Some lessons we should learn from this are: be pro-active regarding IP strategy and be practical (don’t only look at the legal points). As for being practical: it might help that Duncan also qualified as veterinarian; I imagine this profession teaches people to be more practical than law school does. In general it was an interesting pitch and TIS convinced me of having a refreshing and valuable approach towards dealing with a company’s IP.

Text Mathijs van Basten Batenburg

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