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IPBC 2015 in San Francisco

The last two weeks have been a particularly busy time for Aistemos with much activity in the US. Two days and one evening in San Francisco at the IP Business Congress 2015 preceded meetings in LA, Washington, Boston and New York – here are a few reflections on the global event that attracted 675 delegates from 34 countries.

The congress started in earnest on Monday 15th at the amazing Palace Hotel following a reception that the IP twittersphere, and the less connected, roundly agreed was a great networking event.

Here are our top observations from the event:

  1. It’s a buyer’s market for patents. There are not many high quality patents for sale, even though companies that previously only considered selling non-core patents are now offering up entire portfolios. This may well be driven by C-suite executives’ increasing push to “do something with patents”.
  2. Patent valuation is still a challenge. Valuations on either side of a transaction can still be “poles apart” – our own Nigel Swycher, speaking in the ‘Value Conundrums’ plenary session, argued that objective data will make IP transactions more transparent and therefore more efficient, effectively rendering the NPE largely irrelevant within five years.
  3. We can stop talking about smartphones. For some, it was a relief to move on from smartphones – the major patent growth areas are in energy, automotive, med-tech, wearables and smart home/internet of things.
  4. The unitary patent will drive up the value of European patents. That view that seems to hold in the US, but not so much amongst European commentators. Either way things won’t change overnight, but when it does so will a lot more litigation.
  5. Less change in the US. In the US any more tinkering with legislation beyond the current round is going to exhaust participants to the point of despair – are we at the end of an era?
  6. Patent perceptions are poor. Outsiders and newcomers to patents will probably agree with the view expressed by inventors; that it’s sad to see patents most often associated with litigation and legal expense, rather than innovation.
  7. China’s emergence as a major patent force continues. The Chinese State IP Office received praise for its achievements in terms of the quality of assets, albeit tempered by the observation that Chinese residents make up a conspicuously small proportion of applicants in non-Chinese jurisdictions. This may well lead to large-scale acquisition of foreign patents by Chinese entities.
  8. Busy times ahead for patent authorities. Patent offices will become busier and busier as technology continues to proliferate – this will create challenges as they try to manage workloads and changes in IP whilst maintaining a stable and predictable legal base for innovators. The US is a prime example in the light of the Alice case and the uncertain interpretation of S.101.
  9. Openness is good. Readers of this blog, and other IP and technology publications, will be aware that the Open Register of Patent Ownership (ORoPO) was launched at IPBC this year – as Sir Nigel Shadbolt, the co-founder of the Open Data Institute, told ZDNet “Nobody is even close to having a good, robust way to deal with patents.” ORoPO aims to address that and we are delighted to be part of the effort.
  10. Well-deserved recognition. We also mentioned in a previous blog that IPKat’s Jeremy Phillips was inducted in to the IP Hall of Fame and, at a gala dinner at IPBC 2015, his official induction took place. Jeremy Phillips called for the IP community to listen to inventors and innovators, stressing that IP professionals are here to serve those developing technologies that will have a profound impact on our world.

While this round up only scratches the surface, we hope it gives you a flavour of some of the discussions to emerge from a fascinating event. Overall, IPBC illustrated once again that IP is now a mainstream consideration in the boardroom, and that patents are shaping up as a serious asset class.

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