Launch Cipher

David Kappos, Cravath – joint Slaughter and May / AISTEMOS

David Kappos, partner in Cravath and former director of the USPTO will be speaking on the subject of:
Welcome to the IP age

About the event:
First there was the Stone Age; much later the Steam Age, the Industrial Age, the Computer Age, the Internet Age. We have now entered an age in which innovation is the only sustainable source of competitive advantage, and intellectual property is the only vehicle available to carry and protect innovation. Moreover, as our problems become more daunting, we find they can be addressed only through innovation, which in turn further increases emphasis on intellectual property. We’ll explore what is right and what needs to be improved in the IP system, and how to do it without destroying what some in England, and some in the US, have called one of mankind’s greatest inventions: the IP system.

About the speaker:
David J. Kappos is a partner at Cravath. He is a leader in the field of intellectual property, including IP management and strategy, the development of global IP norms, laws and practices as well as commercialization and enforcement of innovation-based assets.

From 2009 to 2013, Mr. Kappos served as Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In that role, he advised the President, Secretary of Commerce and the Administration on IP policy matters. Mr. Kappos led the Agency in dramatically reengineering its entire management and operational systems and its engagement with the global innovation community. He was instrumental in achieving the greatest legislative reform of the U.S. patent system in generations through passage and implementation of the 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.

For more information, or to register for this event please email


Last week Aistemos together with Slaughter and May hosted a talk by former Under Secretary of State for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos – now a partner at esteemed US firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP.

Held at the Royal Society in London, Kappos opened his talk, titled “Welcome to the IP Age,” by reminding the diverse crowd, formed of both IP experts and observers, that “the patent system is like a giant lottery with incredibly low odds of winning”. He argues that globalisation coupled with the now relative ease with which parties can reproduce all sorts of products means that “the minute you come up with something good, someone will copy it very quickly.” Historically, patent systems have always been subject to criticism at times of technological change and he feels that the complexities of globalisation, partnering and employee mobility means that this is the case now more than at any other point in his lifetime.

Kappos highlighted several characteristics that stand out in the age of IP:

  1. The development of open innovation and crowdsourcing – he gave examples from GE, IBM and Eli Lilly as companies where value chain input improves products or services and where crowd-sourcing provides fast and inexpensive answers to questions – allowing dramatic increases in the speed at which ideas reach the market as products and services.
  2. Increasing consideration of all forms of IP protection, particularly in emerging markets.
  3. The importance of incremental innovation, not singular leaps – Kappos gave the example of the vast volume of US patents owned by Steve Jobs saying, “Most of them were pretty mundane.”
  4. Trade secrets forming part of a company’s IP strategy – citing the example of a firm dealing extensively with China. He explained how the US based company outsourced manufacturing to China but in doing so, kept the assembling of a critical component in the US (which was near impossible to reverse engineer) thus eliminating the possibility of replication in the Chinese market.
  5. Companies need to recognise their employees as being key sources of innovative ideas, and to foster an environment where these ideas are shared and not guarded. Kappos mentioned Twitter as an example of a company which encourages its employees to innovate by granting them control over the rights enforcement of the IP they create.

In answering a question about the inclusion of IP assets in company accounts, Kappos highlighted that there was more “granular accountability” on its way and that this would be driven by regulators becoming more interested in IP assets – particularly if businesses were attributing greater value to them.

He said it was likely that patent offices would eventually raise their game in terms of speed of turnaround on patent prosecutions. Kappos envisages a time where you will be able to track your application online and see where it is in the system – much as one can do now with the better courier services.

There is clearly a convergence between the IP age, and the era of big data. Many of the matters addressed relate to why insight is increasingly important at all points in the value chain, and why strategically, aligning IP to the board is a key takeaway from such a compelling session. We also wish to thank everyone for attending, and being open to learning from a world-renowned IP authority.

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