Contact us

Seagate on keeping up with patent technology changes

Share this page:

As Chief Intellectual Property Counsel at Seagate, Bob Pechman has seen the sector transform from hard-drives to a proliferation of technologies and near infinite demand for data storage solutions. He explains the pressures of supporting the business during this period of rapid technological change and how Cipher helps see patent technology changes through Seagate’s own technology lens. Bob runs the Patent Group at Seagate and has all IP attorneys, including patent agents, report through him. He took over that role at Seagate in the summer of 2013.

What kind of pressures are you currently facing in the patent team?

It’s the typical stuff, budget primarily, and aligning what we’re doing with the IP portfolio with what the business goals are and what’s happening strategically with the business. And getting the right kind of attention from the right executives.

With those kinds of strategic alignment questions, how have you gone about answering those questions?

It’s hard. Depending on what the business vision is at the time. When I took over, the business was very data storage, hard-drive centric, and we understood that industry well our place in it.  It was all a matter of building piles of patents and in the right areas, maintaining our technology leadership.

But as data storage keeps evolving beyond data centres and into new types of storage where you need to capture lots of data close to where it’s being created.  It’s creating a lot of different opportunities, a different type of customer base.

Where before you could refresh what we were looking at every few years, now we’re in a situation where what was important a month ago might not be important today.  We have to make decisions about our portfolio based on the realities of the moment.  We’re in a totally different situation.

Our issue was how to fit other companies’ portfolios into that same framework that we use and there’s just no other tool other than Cipher that can do that.

Bob Pechman, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, Seagate Technology

Has the speed of technology change meant that you’ve had to change your approach to how you review your patent portfolio?

Yes, how we look at it and how we communicate it, because if we’re not moving at the speed that the business is, then we start to become irrelevant. It’s been a definite challenge.

The hard part too is that not everything that we’re trying to do, or every path you follow from a business perspective, ends up panning out, especially when you’re looking for emerging opportunities. It’s difficult to be able to get actionable information from our IP portfolio or about competitor IP quickly and easily.

We have needed to change our approach and not pour over every single project. We can start with a high-level view – good enough information – because many of these questions that are being asked from the business folks, aren’t relevant in a few months, because their project has gone away or we’ve decided to move in a different direction.

You get these demands to produce answers to questions, but what questions are being asked might be super important today, and then tomorrow it ends up not being. The challenge is needing to move quickly and nimbly, but not wanting to put inordinate amounts of effort into the analysis.

How has Cipher helped you meet some of these challenges of patent technology changes?

Primarily we’ve been playing around with how we break down our portfolio. Our issue was how can we fit other companies’ portfolios into that same framework that we use and there’s just no other tool other than Cipher that we have that can do that.

The process was pretty straightforward and even simpler the more useful data you can provide. We’ve also scoped other classifiers where we started completely from scratch, where the Cipher team had to do more work up-front, but even that process went smoothly.

Bob Pechman, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, Seagate Technology

How did you find the process of communicating to the Cipher team what your lens was and then being satisfied that we’ve captured that?

The process was pretty straightforward. It’s a lot more straightforward the more data you can provide and where we have useful data, it’s quite a simple process. We’ve also scoped some other classifiers where we started completely from scratch, where your team had to do more work up front, but even that process went pretty smoothly – they did a nice job.

On the first pass through you’d get a couple dozen or so cases on the edge, to give you a gut feel of whether they’re in or out and you spend a few minutes giving that feedback and then you’re pretty much good to go.

I do appreciate that the Cipher team are obviously very into this stuff, very interested in what clients have to say and how we’re using it and what our questions are. Your team is really open to it and not just from a customer service point of view. You can tell that the people really enjoy the conversations that we’re having and they make it pretty easy.

Did you have any concerns about Cipher’s supervised machine learning?

I’m not sure we had concerns that it wouldn’t be any good, but we did look at some technology areas where we were very comfortable with what our knowledge was about the IP landscape, and scoped those out with some classifier sets with Cipher, partly to see what Cipher could deliver compared to things that we already do, but also just to validate that Cipher was generating similar kinds of data.

Insights & Events

Beyond portfolio optimisation – calculating the value of rightsizing

View our webinar discussing results of the Cipher Report on Portfolio Optimisation and the optimisation model that can help you balance your portfolio.
Read more

Cipher Report on Portfolio Optimisation

Hear from Google, Accenture, Facebook and many other large patent owning organisations in the full Cipher report. Take a look at what the world’s patent owning organisations are saying about balanced portfolios and the various strategic objectives served by those portfolios.
Read more

How Many Patents Are Enough?

Are you looking to optimise your patent portfolio but aren’t sure where to start? Read our article to uncover proven models that should act as rational and repeatable metrics to optimising your portfolio.
Read more

How would you explain the impact and value that Cipher has provided to Seagate?

The capability that has helped the most from a budget and spend standpoint was being able to demonstrate how we compare vis a vis competitors and others in our space, how much they’re spending on their patents and then being able to benchmark, because that’s a constant question that comes up in our company.  I was quite surprised to see how accurate Cipher was – because I could compare it to our own costs.

While it’s well recognised that IP is valuable, we’re constantly looking to manage costs and so the question, “why are we spending so much in this area or that area?” and being able to quickly demonstrate that we are protecting our technology leadership, while having a tighter portfolio and spending less per case than what our competitors are doing is hugely important. This is probably the biggest win for us with Cipher so far.

I continue to place a lot of value on tools that are very flexible and where we’re able to quickly adjust them to the problems at hand. I’m looking forward to working with Cipher in the future.

Related Case studies

ARM on classifiers and managing patent budgets

Rob Calico, VP Litigation and IP, discusses the challenges of managing a sophisticated portfolio in a fast-moving technology environment, and how Cipher has helped them manage their patenting strategy and budgets.
Read more

Red Hat on using the Cipher Optimisation Model

Jared Engstrom, Head of Patent Development, talks about the growth in Red Hat’s portfolio, how he has used Cipher’s custom classifiers and how the Cipher Optimisation model has improved their understanding of the competitive landscape.
Read more

Richardson Oliver Insights on the challenges of IP Teams

COO of Richardson Oliver Insights, Erik Oliver, talks about the challenges faced by IP teams with managing high value portfolios and the increased demand for both better data and better ways to communicate the value of patents.
Read more

BAE Systems on the importance of competitive intelligence in disruptive technology environments

Chief Counsel for Intellectual Property and Technology Law, Dr. Bobby Mukherjee, explains how his IP team uses Cipher to help communicate the importance of IP internally and to navigate complex technology landscapes.
Read more

With Cipher you can…

Portfolio Optimisation connecting cogs

Optimise your portfolio

Ensure you have the right portfolio to meet your strategic patenting objectives.

Read more
Competitive Intelligence

Gather competitor intelligence

Understand who’s doing what by automating patent to technology mapping.

Read more
Cross Licensing

Model cross licensing

Combine patent and revenue data to determine rational licensing outcomes.

Read more

Manage your budget

Justify patent budgets and communicate the impact of your investment.

Read more

Conduct due diligence

Automate manual reviews for efficient execution of M&A and licensing transactions.

Read more

Tackle inbound patent assertion

Be prepared with evidence to create a fast and effective threat assessment.

Read more

Benchmark your portfolio

Assess your portfolio in comparison to other owners through your technology lens.

Read more

Monetise your portfolio

Identify opportunities to create value through licensing or sale of patent assets.

Read more
Technology Trends icon

Predict technology trends

Track new technologies and discover the unknown owners of future innovation.

Read more
Icon of a meter

Create Risk Mitigation Strategies

Understand the materiality of your threats to define your risk mitigation strategy.

Read more

Improve your patent strategy now

Speak to the Cipher team today.

Review Your Portfolio

Arrange a callback