What happens when a company has a strong patent portfolio but is not able to convert the IP assets into financial ones? Add to it, the rising operational costs that are affecting the financial health of the company.
Now picture this – the aforesaid company is your key competitor and is going to file for bankruptcy soon. Its patented products are the only rival to your products in this segment. Would you be interested in their patent portfolio? Or, would you drop this acquisition opportunity? You may say that you know everything about companies in your domain but what about if this company is based out of China. Would you consider it?
Before you make a decision, let’s throw in another situation.
Let us assume – Another big company who never forayed in this domain is suddenly interested in its portfolio and plans to acquire it. What happens if it acquires their patent portfolio? What if it creates a bigger brand by coupling their patent portfolio with its own and forays into the new segment?
In this scenario, both the companies which have the option to acquire the financially bankrupt company with a strong patent portfolio can benefit in their own special ways. One company can become the undisputed leader, whereas the other can foray into a new field and diversify in the quickest time period while also gaining by spending least resources on Research and Development for their new range of products.
A real-life example of similar circumstances is that of Best Buy, an electronics retail company, which acquired the health and safety solutions company GreatCall for $800 million in order to move beyond the retail segment and venture into a new sector. Tech giant Google, too, has immensely benefitted from acquisitions – by later expanding their product range – of varied patent portfolios ranging from Android to YouTube to DoubleClick to Motorola Mobility.
Assuming that you are able to acquire the whole patent portfolio of your competitor, there are chances it would make you the principal manufacturer in the sector. This would be similar to the purchase of intellectual property for $40 Million by Facebook from MOL Global — patents formerly held by rival Friendster — to maintain its dominant position.
In the above-mentioned examples, it is definite that the acquiring companies would have conducted a precise evaluation of those patent portfolios before the acquisition. During the
The question that crosses the mind is – How can one assess and evaluate the quality and worthiness of a patent portfolio?
The answer is simple – By conducting a patent due diligence.
What is Patent due diligence and how it could help in acquisitions?
Patent due diligence, is essentially an audit to assess the quantity and the quality of patent assets owned by, or licensed to, a company, business or individual. It also includes an assessment of how intellectual property is captured and protected by the relevant company or business.
Based on the needs, a patent due diligence strategy could be crafted which would fall under and include one or more of the following types of evaluations, namely – Strategic, Procedural, Qualitative and Tactical. Let us analyze each one of them separately.
Strategic Patent Due Diligence
This assessment examines the manner in which the desired patent assets can be tailored to fit into the current strategy of the acquirer.
The situation discussed earlier is a good example of a strategic patent due diligence. In that scenario, two companies were interested in the patent portfolio of a bankrupt company. Their reasons for acquiring the company were strategic decisions and was revealed by this due diligence.
Thus, whenever there is a possibility of acquiring another patent portfolio, it should be assessed on the ground that how the company will benefit from the same. These benefits may range from stopping a competitor from acquiring it or commencing business in a new territory or sector.
For instance, Snap (SnapChat’s Parent Company) acquired the geofilter patent belonging to Instagram competitor Mobli for $7.7 million. Other examples include the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook, Deep Mind by Google and Siri and Shazam by Apple.
Procedural Due Diligence
Under this assessment, only the technical aspect of the portfolio is evaluated. This is also an important aspect in determining the key pointers, including, but not limited to: exact number of patents available for acquisition, whether all applications have been correctly filed, how many patents have been granted, how many are pending and the stage at which they are pending, any oppositions filed against the patents, any patents due for renewal, etc. This information can help in determining the exact strength of the patent portfolio.
Assume a situation where the patents for some popular vaccinations are up for sale, however, these patents are nearing expiry, after which they may enter the generic domain. It is only by procedural Due Diligence this sort of information comes to light. A classic example of a lapse in this regard is the purchase of IP assets of Rolls Royce and Bentley by Volkswagen in the tune of $900 million. It was only after the deal was sealed that Volkswagen realized that the trademark “Rolls Royce” was owned by BMW through a prior agreement. Volkswagen then had to enter into a separate agreement with BMW for the said trademark.
Quality Due Diligence
This analysis is used to verify the real strength of a patent portfolio. The quality check is not just a formality, but a proper examination to determine the details of a patent portfolio. It helps in analyzing how the patents can actually be used by the acquirer.
After assessing the quality of each patent, the assessee can conclude the real value of the particular patent. It also helps in determining whether – the patent satisfies the criterion prescribed under the legislation, whether the document is properly described to include the whole invention, or are there any missing claims, etc.
Not just that, this due diligence answers highlights various other issues like:
What if the claims of a patent document do not cover the key technology?
What if there is a significant portion of the document which is not properly drafted?
What if the technology required for working is not mentioned in the document?
What if there is a significant overlap of the patents with a competitor?
All these issues can only be recorded after the quality due diligence is completed.
Tactical Due Diligence
After all the other aspects of Due Diligence are completed, then the tactical assessment is done. It provides recommendations to all the queries raised under the strategic, procedural and quality analysis of a patent portfolio.
Under the tactical review, the following details can be examined –
How can the strategies of both the parties (acquiring and to be acquired) be aligned for the smooth transition?
What key steps are required to be taken?
What procedure or process must be followed?
Are any renewals to be filed; are any responses to FERs due; are any oppositions or counter-statements or any procedural requirements pending to be filed; any priority applications pending; etc.
A strong patent portfolio can prove to be a financial blessing which can provide instant momentum to businesses. It is, however, critical for the acquirer to ensure that the patent portfolio, which is being acquired is not only healthy but suits their requirements and does not disrupt their current IP assets. There are examples where the acquired assets had been sold at a discounted price like the sale of Motorola by Google to Lenovo.
In determining the actual health of a patent portfolio, all these evaluations – strategic, qualitative, procedural and tactical, each have a different role to play. Thus the holistic approach towards Due Diligence is critical and must not be overlooked. A cumulative assessment must be undertaken before rushing into any new deals or acquisitions by either party.
Women need to shift from thinking ‘I am not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it’- Sheryl Sandberg
When anyone said: “You can’t because you are a woman”. Didn’t that provoke you to prove them wrong and be the change? Me, you, each one of us, we all can be the change.
I’ll indulge you in a secret, I too dream of it. I too wish to know how it would actually feel to reach the pinnacle of excellence(being a woman). The thought that one day, maybe, I too will become a lady who can inspire others to break all the limits, becomes my driving force to work harder each day.
Being a part of the IP domain, something which keeps me and many other women motivated are the ladies who have worked so hard in this domain that the people around the globe look at them in awe.
This women’s day, why not pay gratitude to these women who kept us motivated all this while?
Here’s my way of doing it – I decided to write about all these prominent women who pursued their dreams and proved themselves in the IP domain. Women who showed it to the world, “I can do it because I am a woman.”
Let’s talk about these women who set an example for all the other pretty ladies, dreaming and daring to change the world.
Vicki A Barbur, Senior Director, IP and Technology Commercialisation, Battelle
I believe words would fall short for Vicki who is expert in both science and business. Being a PhD holder in physics, she motivates everyone to think out of the box with her way of formulating innovative research-based strategies for organizations. She also holds three U.S. and one European patent based on Applying Novel Statistical Principles to Process Methodologies.
Being an example in herself she is widely published in peer-reviewed journals. During her 20 years of experience, she also contributed to the advancing economic development for her country by strategizing to make government investment in R&D accessible to sponsor organizations and the private sector.
Doesn’t this motivate you too?
Eeva Hakoranta, Senior Vice President and Head, IP, Nokia Technologies
Being the Head of Intellectual Property of a business with a patent value and brand licensing revenue of more than €1.6 billion(as of 2017) is a jaw-dropping achievement in itself. Eeva is one of the leading ladies in patent licensing with the skill of cross-functionality. According to IAM 300, “Working for many years at the intersection of business, intellectual property, and competitive law, Ms Hakoranta has closed hundreds of agreements, managed complex litigation and enforcement projects, and been deeply involved in defining terms for major transactions.” Truly a versatile person!
Having many attributes of perfection, she continues to be active in a number of positions of trust within professional organizations and groups in the fields of intellectual property and licensing.
The face of Fortress Investment Group, Courtney is an experienced executive in the domain of IP and business. She is a very knowledgeable person when it comes to developing, protecting and enforcing the patents that drive technology innovation. Before Fortress, she proved her strategy building skills being the VP of Rovi Corporation, a TiVo Company.
Apart from this, she is also the co-founder of Pocket Door, a company for home improvement which manages to provide the necessary things in a house by connecting users with the vendors. In her private practice of more than 10 years, she keeps up her extensive expertise in the IP domain.
Ceyda Maisami, Senior Patent Counsel and Patent Development Director, HP Inc
Following your interest and making it a career is a tough task. But Ceyda proved that with hard work and persistence, you can move mountains. She started freelancing at an early age while studying in law school. Keeping her optimism as high as possible she never stopped in her journey. Her hard work paid off over the years, as Ceyda is the Senior Patent Counsel of HP overseas currently. She manages the company’s commercial and consumer personal system products/technology solutions portfolios. Her continuous hard work gives inspirational moral to all the ladies out there.
Dori Hines is known for her practice on patent litigation. Her experience involves a wide range of technologies which evidently shows how versatile she is. Having great leadership qualities she leads the firm’s Semiconductor, IC Working Group, electrical and computer technology practice group. Since the early years of her career, she was very consistent with activities like patent application drafting and worldwide prosecution that helped her achieve what she is today. Dori has also shared her knowledge with others, teaching several patent litigation workshops and courses, and lecturing on patent issues.
Johanna is a multifaceted intellectual property and technology strategy specialist with over 20 years’ experience in leading IP along with expertise in maths, science, and engineering. She established comprehensive programs for identification of valuable IP from portfolios of over 40,000 assets. Having established her name globally, she established a benchmark in the IP domain, by getting featured in IAM 300.
Not only this, she also proved her leadership qualities with her outstanding sense of business and judgment being the CEO of QipWorks. She is an inventor on 83 patent families, including 188 granted patents and over 400 pending patent applications worldwide. Along with technical expertise, she is also a very generous person as she announced the “Johanna Dwyer Women in IP” Award to encourage and support women interested in pursuing a career in IP. We truly want more women like her.
A young and innovative Biology student who followed her passion and chose her career in the IP domain. She kick-started her career as an IP counsel and worked diligently in directing a team of skilled attorneys and paralegals. Her zeal to achieve more took her to Harvard which was a breakthrough in her life’s journey. Leveraging her skills and knowledge there, she indulged in the development and tracking of Harvard’s patent portfolio including monitoring all patents legal expenses. She closely works with other board members and advises strategies to increase the value of IP to facilitate commercialization with such a pace that it surprises everyone around.
‘I decided to take the challenge at Nokia because I believe you really grow and learn when you take yourself out of your comfort zone,’ remarks Maria Varsellona, executive vice president (VP) and chief legal officer (CLO) of the technology company.
Varsellona being a young, diligent and daring lady, chose the road less travelled and succeeded in getting promoted to the role of CLO of the whole Nokia group in May 2014 – just ten months after joining as an executive board member and general counsel (GC) of subsidiary business Nokia Solutions and Networks. From CLO to president, Maria has set a benchmark for all the in house officials out there.
Prior to joining Nokia Siemens Networks, Maria served as the General Counsel at TetraPak. Previously, Maria held senior legal positions in GE Oil & Gas for many years, with a specific focus on managing legal affairs for commercial operations and global services. It looks like a dream (Afterall, we are all responsible for building our own castles).
Sharon has extensive knowledge of IP and technology transactions. Highly versatile she counsels on a wide range of intellectual property issues, including those raised by M&A transactions, licensing, open source, invention harvesting and many more.
Sharon is multilingual being fluent in Taiwanese, Zharma, Tamacheq, Mandarin, French, and German. Apart from her linguistic abilities, another feather in Sharon’s hat was her volunteering experience in the Peace Corps, where she formed the first women’s credit union and Scholarship program for a village in West Africa and later managed to collect funds for the hostel for volunteers. She is best known for her work for youth at-risk in obtaining necessary educational services, and access to resources.
She grasps the essence of technology quickly and adds value to the work. With her capabilities, she can turn the tables upside down and can draw on a top class network. She has a 20-year career in all IP matters worldwide, on mixed contentious and non-contentious legal issues across all industry sectors, including technology, media and telecommunications, the Internet of things, food and beverages, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, batteries, energy, and renewables. Before this, Dr. Anwer held numerous positions in big companies and top law firms. She combined a solid business background with strong technical acumen to implement new technologies and enhance efficiency throughout the company. Her pragmatic approach positions her well for strategic IP decisions about a business.
We are all different, yet the same. Our souls are colored with different shades, yet the colorless is our favourite gradient. When we indulge beautifully in our own space, we leave an inspiration for others to stand along. In case they need more space to blend in, we leave some extra margins behind. Afterall, there can be nothing more fascinating than women adjusting to balance fellow women.
Walmart, the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, has been pushing the envelope for becoming a tech-centric company from being a traditional retailer. It has shifted its focus and strategies to become a high-tech innovator.
It makes one wonder – What made Walmart take that approach? What strategies did it use to overcome the challenges it had been facing? We did some digging and found a lot of insights which other businesses can take a lesson or two from. These insights include Walmart’s patent strategy, its similarity to Amazon’s strategy, the innovations Walmart is working on, and how it is integrating next-gen tech to improve every area of their operations.
The table of contents below gives a sneak-peek into every facet we’d be discussing in our brief time together today. If you’d like to a particular section of your interest, you can click on the relevant hyperlink to get to that section.
Walmart’s Tough Time
Before 2014, the condition of Walmart in the market was chaotic. Here are some of the factors substantiating its situation:
Not only that, Walmart had faced a financial breakdown during the years 2013–14. The annual report of Walmart in 2014 stated: “Fiscal 2014 was a tough year for Walmart. Sales and earnings were not where we wanted them to be, as we faced a number of economic headwinds around the world.”
Consequently, in 2014, it was noticed that the ROI of Walmart had dropped rapidly when compared to 2010.
Walmart’s Strategies to Overcome Challenges
After 2014, the headlines seemed to change. Walmart began emerging as a rising player — one to watch out. If we try and look for the reasons behind this positive turnaround, we’d find the following:
Walmart shifted its focus towards becoming a technology-centric company: In June 2014, Walmart stated its new aim, which was to transform itself into a tech-innovating company instead of just having some retail stores. Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO, said: “We will also develop new capabilities to serve customers in new ways. It is important that we all understand the shift that has happened in technology and retail, what it means for us and what we’re doing to win. There’s a lot of innovation and opportunity available to us.”
Walmart realized that it must protect the tech it’s using: Walmart had been facing continuous litigations and had realized that in order to avoid these costly litigations, it had to secure a patent arsenal.
Patents are mostly used for defensive purpose rather than offensive — and having a strong patent portfolio often helps in avoiding litigations as chances of counterclaim or retaliation increases and hence the possibility of settlement becomes more viable.
Considering this, it can be considered that the continuous litigations pushed Walmart to develop a patent portfolio of its own, and subsequently an exponential rise was observed in Walmart’s patent filing trend post-2014 — in fact, the count of patents filed in 2017 was 5 times when compared to 2014–15.
As a consequence, the number of lawsuits dropped down like a stone.
In2015, Walmart topped the list of the biggest IT spenders worldwide; the amount being spent was more than USD 10.5 billion. This IT spending entailed the money spent on hardware, software, IT services, telecommunication services, etc. One of Walmart’s recent announcements substantiates the impact of this decision clearly: “A 43% increase in its e-commerce sales”, which was fueled by increased investment in digital assets.
As it is said, “Innovation without protection is philanthropy”, Walmart realized the importance of innovation, and moreover, of protecting its innovation.
Like Amazon, Like Walmart
Walmart and Amazon have been competing in almost every aspect of their businesses. While Walmart’s revenue surpasses Amazon’s drastically, Amazon beats Walmart in online sales with a huge gap. Amazon covers 49.1% of the US online sales while Walmart only has a share of 3.7%. But the game is not limited to the US, globally both companies are struggling to make bucks.
But, as per Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, “Walmart is the only firm that has the management, capital, and the scale to compete with Amazon. They’ve probably done as good a job of getting off their heels and on their toes as any retailer in the world.“
There is no doubt in stating that IP lawsuits played a key role in pushing the development of Walmart’s patent portfolio. But Walmart is not the only case. It seems that Amazon’s patent portfolio was also kick-started by the rising number of lawsuits against it.
Well, as is apparent, the plots of litigations against Amazon and that of patent filing of Amazon look similar to those of Walmart. This seems if Walmart has actually been following the business strategy that had previously been adopted by Amazon.
Walmart Patent Strategy
A Step Towards Monopoly
Here is how Walmart’s invention of ‘self-driving shopping cart’ incorporated more and more features over time.
Furthermore, Walmart recently filed a patent application for a shopping cart with biometric handle, which would track customer’s stress levels, read pulse rate and temperature. Additionally, these carts would warn associates when customers may need help.
It looks like Walmart has been actively researching which exceptional features can still be added to a shopping cart. Thus, it can very well be a possibility that Walmart is monopolizing the shopping-cart space.
Areas in which Walmart might think of monopolizing
These are some areas in which Walmart has cited itself repeatedly. As we have seen for the case of Shopping Carts and Conversational Interfaces, Walmart might develop patent thickets in these technological areas, and try to monopolize here too.
Two Trends of Walmart Patent Strategy
Now, one thing to ponder over is the way Walmart is monopolizing ‘Self-Driving Shopping Cart Systems’. Well, as it turns out, there are two trends that we can see by looking at the way Walmart files its patent applications. Let’s have a look.
File First. File Often
Walmart leans towards filing multiple provisional applications for a single invention. The concept here is that with any invention, there would be a stream of additions and reductions to practice. Thus, when Walmart decides to work on an invention for long, it files numerous provisional applications as and when the additional versions of the invention are developed.
Apart from filing often, Walmart has been practicing self-citations for incremental innovations. In a considerable number of cases, Walmart has cited its own patents — indicating that most of its research is intertwined. Further, for such cases, Walmart generally files a continuation application — again indicating that it aims to cover each and every aspect of a single invention.
All this can be boiled down to a term ‘patent thicket’, which means a cluster of patents revolving around one biginvention, thereby creating a monopoly in that space.
Walmart has applied both these strategies in the case of Self-Driving Shopping carts — and seems to be on the verge of successfully capturing the market.
There’s another patent that talks about conversational interfaces between a user and a computer system without human intervention for enhancing the consumer experience. This patent has 9 provisional applications and around 20 INPADOC family members. Though there’s no recent activity by Walmart on this patent, it is a possibility that Walmart applies the same strategy on this invention and gain a monopoly here as well.
Integrating Next-Generation Technologies
Walmart is using the technologies (like Blockchain, IoT, AI etc.) and other companies’ support to improve every area of their operations. That’s why they are investing so much money and efforts to become a technology company and this strategy certainly helps the company to a great extent.
Blockchain and IOT for tracking food safety
Contamination of food leads to significant losses to the suppliers. In 2018, many customers and grocers were forced to throw away large amounts of romaine lettuce when an E. coli contamination in the lettuce spread through the food industry.
Since most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes, tracking such an issue is difficult and time-consuming.
Solution via tech-integration
Walmart partnered with IBM to implement the Food Trust blockchain for its live food business. It quickened tracing the food from farm to store in real time, thus making the process more transparent.
Moreover, Walmart asked its suppliers of leafy greens to use Blockchain to trace their products all the way back to the farm. This will let them see and validate with certainty where that product was grown, handled, stored and inspected.
Furthermore, Walmart has implemented Internet of Things to manage food safety. IoT aggregates data from sensors at each point in the supply chain: farm, transportation, warehousing, and marketplace, and provides information about the product’s attributes.
The retail giant has joined hands with JD.com to back blockchain food tracking effort in China.
Walmart collaborated with IBM and Tsinghua University to create the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance. Walmart had, in fact, piloted the use of Blockchain in food safety back in 2016 — to explore its usability for food tracking, traceability, and safety — with IBM and Tsinghua.
AI for stock management and store cleanliness
Items get misplaced in the wrong shelf.
Refilling is needed when the stock is running low.
Retail stores are prone to dangers from wet surfaces.
Repetitive tasks such as cleaning/scrubbing the floor require a lot of time and effort.
Solution via tech-integration
Walmart is working on an Artificial Intelligence Lab in its stores, which will use cameras to track misplaced items and identify low-running stocks. Walmart has also partnered with the California-based Bossa Nova to implement AI-based robots, who’d roam around the store and identify shelves that’d need to be taken care of.
Walmart sponsored Texas A&M University for its computer vision projects. One of the projects involves creating camera systems that would detect water on the floor and let the employees know — so that they can remove the water.
To implement this, Walmart had also partnered with Brain Corporation to create floor-scrubbing robots. Such a robot uses multiple sensors to scan its surroundings for people and obstacles, identify the areas on the floors that need scrubbing, and clean the floor when needed.
Augmented Reality for customer’s enhanced experience
It is not feasible to facilitate a one-go comparison of different products based on prices, ratings, etc.
It is needed that retailers create engaging and fun experiences for shoppers for enhancing customer experience.
Solution via tech-integration
Walmart recently introduced an AR scanner in its mobile app; the camera, when pointed at items on a shelf, brings out the products’ names, prices, customer ratings, and other details while moving the phone from one product to another. The technology was first developed by a team at an internal Walmart hackathon using Apple’s ARKit technology.
Walmart also partnered with the augmented-reality developer Zappar, to bring this tech to their retail stores. Shoppers can scan the Zapcodes at the stores to activate AR experience, which is being sponsored by many brands like Pepsi, Nickelodeon etc. The AR-related activities include encounters with brand mascots like Tony the Tiger or Chester the Cheetah, mini-games, 3D animations, and face filters. All of this greatly enhances the customer experience.
Walmart’s purpose in making its stores AR-enabled is to get more attention from customers and enhance their in-store experience. Walmart is doing its best to transform a regular shopping trip into an adventure, thereby boosting customer engagement.
Virtual Reality for enhancing the employee-customer experience
It is difficult to train employees without creating life-like store environment.
It is needed that retailers create engaging and fun experiences for shoppers for enhancing customer experience.
Solution via tech-integration
Walmart has been using virtual reality to train its associates. The associates can learn by watching modules through the headsets. This lets them recreate a real-life store environment to experiment, learn, and handle difficult situations. In fact, “Walmart was one of the first companies to benefit from VR’s ability to enrich employee education”.
Walmart even acquired virtual reality startup Spatialand to create VR software to be used in Walmart’s retail stores. Spatialand had already worked with Walmart’s technology incubator, Store No. 8, on a project in 2017 — this resulted in a proof-of-concept VR experience for shoppers. As stated by officials, what Spatialand is creating for Walmart might not be visible for 12-18 months. It seems that the VR products in Walmart’s store would be seen at a future time interval when the tech becomes widespread and the cost of VR products is reduced.
Wireless Charging for Store Maintenance
In-store devices, like battery-powered barcode scanners and electronic shelf labels in retail stores, need to be plugged into conventional power sources. This is one extra task that leads to a decrease in employees’ productivity due to the time and energy that could have been utilized elsewhere. More importantly, such devices also increase battery costs for the retailer.
Walmart selected Ossia innovation at the Walmart Innovation Summit in April 2018, out of hundreds of applications, when they showcased how Cota Real Wireless Power would transform the retail experience.
Walmart’s director of public relations, Ravi Jariwala stated: “When we find ways to lower costs, it means we can lower our prices even further for customers, and that’s something we’re always looking to do. One interesting technology we’re excited to test is wireless power transfer from a company named Ossia, Inc., which could one day reduce and even eliminate our daily dependence on batteries and wired connections for power.”
Autonomous Driving for product delivery
For the customers that prefer home delivery, there needs to be a proper channel of delivery service. Moreover, it is not very convenient for the customers to go to a retail store every time they want to buy something new.
Solution via tech-integration
In November 2018, Walmart teamed up with Ford to test the ways in which the latter’s self-driving vehicles could be used to deliver products, such as groceries, toiletries, pet food, and other consumer items. The collaboration would focus on “gathering crucial data about consumer preferences” and learn the best way to connect people with goods that they’d need.
Walmart has also partnered with Waymo to work on an online grocery pilot project. The purpose, they say, is to learn more about the customers and give them a unique convenient experience.
Cloud Computing for enhancing customers experience
It is a task to manage data on thousands of proprietary servers when a retailer is renting all the computing capacity that they need in order to serve their customers effectively.
Solution via tech-integration
In mid-2018, Walmart entered into a five-year agreement with Microsoft to use the latter’s cloud platform, Azure. With this, Walmart would convert all of its websites and applications to run natively on Azure.
Do we really enjoy the company of our colleagues? – As soon as I finished reading this email (copied below) by Rajesh, I had but one question in mind, which has never left me ever since. If it did, I wouldn’t be typing this right now, almost three weeks after receiving that mail.
To start with, I don’t even watch football and except the fact that I have heard the name Ronaldo somewhere, Rajesh’s email in the beginning neither enticed me nor was relevant. But as I proceeded reading through the mail, I realized it was less about football and more about the relationships you have with your colleagues.
That little hand you extend when your fellow colleague is in a rut, that extra hour you decide to stay and help your colleague complete their task so that they too could leave home after a long day, those little things you do that don’t sound like much but make an impact on their lives and go on to strengthen your bonds.
There is a reason that after spending a while at your workplace, you begin to refer to your colleagues as the “workplace family”. They are not just people you work with any more or just friends, but all those small things everyone does for each other including those surprises, sacrifices, little celebrations, that unspoken understanding, and the bond makes those colleagues your family.
This very relationship makes work – no matter how hard – something you look forward to every day. Though hard, your work might not be an obstacle anymore, but a challenge you look forward to solve, because you know you are in the company of people who got your back.
Here’s the original email that inspired the post –
Most of you know that I am a big fan of Ronaldo. But he is regarded as one of the most-selfish players by many people across the globe. And even though I can argue that he is not selfish by any means, but to be honest, sometimes when he is playing, he really seems selfish. So, I wonder, how can his teammates handle him or do they just bear him because of his game?
And then I saw this match yesterday night. Please bear with me if you don’t like football, but I feel this is important.
Let me give you some background first
Ronaldo recently moved to a football club Juventus. Now, his move was unsettling for many superstars present in Juventus, as they felt the peer pressure. [Imagine a RA/SRA from same/different team being assigned the same job that you are working on – OMG, why has he/she been assigned that task? Am I doing something wrong?]
Story of Last Few Weeks
Now, there is this player Dybala who was quite unsettled by Ronaldo’s move (or at least as reported by media), and it started effecting his performance. Gradually, the coach started dropping Dybala from matches. Now, what Ronaldo did in a recent match was awesome – he scored a goal but he did not do his signature celebration (some people would know about it). Instead, he copied Dybala’s trademark celebration gesturing his coach that the team needs Dybala.
What happened in yesterday’s match?
Dybala was brought back to the team and he scored in the opening 10 minutes. And what he did after scoring the goal – you might have guessed, he dropped his trademark celebration and copied Ronaldo’s celebration. An hour later, Ronaldo scored and they together did a mixture of both celebrations. I mean, maybe I am a too die-hard fan of Ronaldo and that is why it seems amazing. And the entire media is buzzing about their friendship, and now they are being regarded as the best attacking duo in football at present.
After watching this, I was left with only one question – Do we really enjoy the company of our colleagues, like Ronaldo and Dybala? If no, it is high time we do, and you will see that work would be really fun.
While working in the IP industry, I got a chance to work with a lot of corporate patent counsels from SMEs to Fortune 500. I learned that the job and responsibilities of an IP counsel are way more than what meets the eye. Their role is not confined within the triangle of prosecution, maintenance, and monetization of the patent portfolio. They are also involved in the review of agreements and negotiating contracts. However, we are focusing on the triangle here. Working on the IP triangle also involves working with multiple department heads, evaluating the internal and external resources to find what is required to align the IP strategy of a company with its business goals and accordingly pruning the resources/processes that are no longer serving the purpose.
Further, I also learned that a patent counsel is a vital link in business machinery that bridges the gap between business strategy and legal strategy. The specialty of a patent counsel is that s/he has a sound business knowledge as well as technical competence to quickly absorb technical details and abstract ideas and combine them with the knowledge of laws in a country to come up with an action plan.
“The most effective chief IP counsel sits at the boundary line between ideas and business value.”
— Wayne Sobon, President, AIPLA
Another vital role that a patent counsel in a technology company plays, which is fairly less discussed, is of a link that can help set the direction of the R&D team. It is those latent powers in the hand of an IP counsel which if ignited, could make an R&D team more efficient and can also increase its innovation quotient. Further, s/he can set a new tempo of innovation and can help the R&D team add new technologies into the company and its marketplace.
Simply put, the role of an IP counsel demands you to master multiple roles. S/he has to be a leader, manager, risk taker, deal maker, innovator, entrepreneur, etc. at the same time. In this article, I’ll share my years of learning and experience that I gathered while working with various industry leaders that could help you master the role of an innovation flag bearer in your organization. Let’s get started.
Getting R&D Insights and Counter Measures
Data is the new oil and a patent counsel already owns an oil well of patent data. Patent analytics can reveal a lot of crucial information for an R&D team. It can help forge raw inspiration with information to develop viable R&D strategies. A CIPO can use patent landscapes to help R&D team in followings ways:
1. How a CIPO can Help R&D Team Set a Clear Research Focus?
In R&D, often you have to take an indispensable decision. While the right decision can help you surpass your competitors, a bad decision can deteriorate your organization’s progress. And deciding your research focus is a similar kind of big decision on which your organization depends.
Research is one complex task involving a great number of thoughts, analysis, techniques, experiments, and results. It is necessary to have knowledge of what exists and from where to start. A strong start with the information, insights, and analysis can help in speeding the research cycle of your organization.
When you have the power of data, using intelligent guesses to make a decision isn’t a good strategy. Rather, the focus should be to harness the power of data in hand to make data-backed informed decisions.
Below are some pointers on how a CIPO can use patent analytics and become instrumental for the R&D team by helping them make data-backed decisions to set the right research focus.
Finding the common research by major players of an industry
If a majority of players of an industry have started filing patents recently in a particular sub-technological area, it indicates that these problems are worth investing the R&D efforts in. A lot of patents give a vote of confidence to trade the untrodden sea. Investing in such an area could open the doors to new successful products, high licensing potential patents, and can lead to a good market capture.
Finding the research focus of the top companies and universities
Many a time, a whole industry focuses on common areas while the top players and the top research institutes of domain work on a completely different thing. Patent analytics could help unravel such insights. Such findings and their further analysis can reveal promising areas to channelize your research investments into.
Spotting continuously researched technological areas with a lot of problems, but less promising solutions
The first two parameters if considered alone can also lead to saturated areas of research as the statistics will be based on the existing level of research. To rule out the false positives, this parameter comes handy.
So, if there is research going on in a particular area where less favorable solutions have been researched, then this also becomes another litmus test to filter out the areas of promising return on research investment.
Finding the research areas which have gained momentum in the recent time
When research in a particular area has just started, there are possibilities that the above parameters may not help in filtering the promising areas of research. In such cases, judging how fast a particular research area is getting momentum as compared to other areas can be a deciding factor.
While doing such an analysis you may encounter a problem of not finding enough actionable data. If you find yourself in front of such a door, try checking which companies or universities are increasing their R&D efforts in the particular technology area, and what is the research focus of these companies/universities. This can help you make informed decisions.
2. How a CIPO Can Help R&D Team Develop Products that Outsize Profit?
If you want to help your R&D team develop products that become a hit in the market by meeting the unmet demand of your customers, patent whitespace analysis should be your go-to tool. A whitespace analysis can help you find areas with high ROI that are researched sparsely or not at all or maybe where the research has just begun. In the case, you identify an area that hasn’t been researched at all or negligible research has been done, you can help your organization gain the first mover advantage.
Patent analytics can help IP counsels find white spaces in the technology domain. These kinds of insights help a CIPO guide R&D head to channelize R&D resources. For example, in the matrix below, one can easily see which areas in the smart switch industry are crowded in terms of research and which are totally unexplored.
We conducted this analysis sometime back so the data may look a bit old but let’s understand it from a conceptual level. Smart switch domain has a lot of potential and few companies have started exploring the whitespace. In case if you’re interested in knowing what else lies within the whitespace of smart switches, here’s the entire report.
3. How CIPO Can Help Take a Product From Conceptualization Stage To a Market Faster and at a Less Cost?
Finding the right partner before the development of a new product can decrease the time it takes a product to move from conceptualization stage to hit the market. Further, it helps reduce the cost by: removing traditional silos, bringing together a wider pool of talent, and sharing of equipment and expertise.
It also saves your R&D team from developing already developed solutions by a partner. The European Commission in its report, Why Researchers Should Care About Patents, estimates that most companies waste 30% of their R&D efforts in developing an already developed solution which in the UK alone equates to £4.8bn.
Patent analytics can help a CIPO find and suggest research partners. The universities, startups, and companies identified as actively researching in your domain of interest and targeting the issues that you are trying to resolve could be considered for collaboration purposes. Further, startups that could be acquired to have a competitive edge can also be identified.
To give you an example, FK Biotecnologia, a Brazilian company that manufactures biotech-based products, relies a lot on patent analytics to find partners and acquire leading technologies. The company considers the creative use of R&D and IP as one of the reasons for its success. It has filled a knowledge gap using patent analytics which has given it an edge over its competitors when it comes to bringing new technologies to market.
“I am very surprised with the amount of knowledge I am getting from patent documents. Knowing the legislation and regulations has been a differential for my company. Access to the information has been my biggest problem, but with the Internet things have become easier.”
Fernando Kreutz, CEO, FK Biotecnologia
4. How a CIPO can derive Competitive Insights and create Risk Mitigation strategy?
A CIPO can use patent analytics to get a lot of competitive insights. Not only s/he could tell where all the established players are channelizing their R&D resources but s/he can also let different stakeholders know which new players – startups as well as established corporations – have entered recently into your domain.
For example, if in 2010, watchmakers like Seiko, Casio, etc. had detected earlier that Apple is filing patents in the smartwatch domain; they would have come up with a smartwatch way earlier than Google, Apple or Pebble that pioneered the domain.
Thus, not only a CIPO could keep the stakeholders up to date with what all the major players of their domain are working on, s/he could also provide them insights on how non-players are trying to break into their core domain. This can help an organization detect threats way earlier, which can help create a mitigation strategy.
5. How a CIPO can identify Cross Industry Innovation to aid R&D Team?
Any organization needs to gather intelligence to keep tabs on technological development activities both inside and outside their domain. A great technological reconnaissance goes beyond the traditional means and formal efforts. An organization needs to have a strong intelligence-gathering network to maintain a competitive edge while increasing R&D productivity.
In general, most of the technology-intensive companies follow two R&D approaches – the breakthrough or closed wall and the technology fusion or cross-industry innovation approach. Under the breakthrough approach, a company follows a linear and non-collaborative approach where a new technology replaces the older one; for example, the ICs replaced the vacuum tubes. Most or all of the research happens inside the walls of the R&D facilities of a company.
In the technology fusion or cross-industry approach, a company leaves its R&D facilities to find solutions in other industries to solve their industry issues. This approach is non-linear and collaborative in nature. To give you an example, 3M used the cross-industry approach to find a solution developed by military surveillance experts to solve their medical imaging problem. The team at 3M was developing a product that takes high-res images to detect an early-stage tumor. Isn’t it amazing?
From aerospace to chemical, pharma to software, technological development is happening at a breakneck speed. Moore’s Law seems like running amok for every sector. Companies are crossing the technological boundaries of their domain to find solutions to their R&D issues in others. At such a time, following the old closed wall approach to R&D won’t work. An R&D intensive company, to stay competitive, has to create a blend of both Fusion and Breakthrough innovation approach.
How a CIPO can help here?
A CIPO can use the power of patent analytics to help his R&D team spot solutions devised by other industries to solve their industry problems. Let’s take an example of the e-cigarette industry that has spent a good amount of R&D resources in solving the power management issues. The image below highlights the number of patents filed by some of the major players – the actual company names are hidden to maintain anonymity.
More than a thousand patents have been filed by the top players to increase the battery life in their e-cigarettes to save their consumers from the hassle of frequent charging. This high patent filing represents that these companies might not have tried looking beyond their industry to find the solution. The smartphone manufacturers have faced similar issues.
An obvious and relevant domain to explore for finding a solution for this problem is of battery. A CIPO can instruct his in-house team or external vendor to get him relevant patent data and solutions implemented by companies in these industries to solve the issue which can then be tweaked as per his organization requirement to come up with a solution.
6. How a CIPO Can Use Patent Analytics for Decreasing the Time Spent on Primary Research?
Do you agree that finding the right information at the right time is the key to improved decision making? A survey by International Data Corporation (IDC) found that 76% of executives consider information to be their most critical asset. Yet, 60% felt that a lack of understanding of how to find the right information is keeping their team from finding the mission-critical information.
Studies by AIIM and Ford Motor Company estimate that knowledge workers spend 15–25% of the time on information that is of no use to the task at hand. Information that couldn’t be found on time is basically equivalent to no information at all. It leads to double work, faulty decision making, lost sales, and further creates a hole in the R&D budget of your company.
To understand how big of a hole it creates, let’s assume a scenario. Before we go ahead with the understanding, let me share stats of another study conducted in 2007 by Outsell Inc. Outsell surveyed 6300 scientists and engineers working in corporate R&D, and found that on average a professional spends 5.5 hours gathering and 4.5 hours in analyzing and applying the collected information.
In the era we are living in, the availability of information isn’t an issue. We, in fact, are drowning in the sea of information. The issue is to quickly uncover important information. However, this hardly happens. What happens instead is – hours of dead-end research.
Let’s now circle back to the estimation of the impact of not finding the right information at right time within R&D budget. Let’s assume out of the 10 hours per week, 3 hours get wasted in sifting through and analyzing irrelevant information. Thus, in a year, approximately, a single R&D professional spends 156 hours on irrelevant information.
Let’s infuse life into these stats. Let’s consider a Fortune 1000 company with 500 R&D Engineers with an annual salary of $100k. As per my calculations, such a company will lose $3744000 to the wasted hours. Here is the breakdown of my calculation:
Total R&D Engineers
Total Working hours in a year
40 hours per week X 52=2080
Cost per hour
100k/2080 = 48
Cost to company of wasted hours
500 x $48 x 156 = $3744000
This was a calculation on wasted hours and the problem doesn’t end here. There are probabilities that the inability to find the right information on time would lead to a substandard outcome and finally an intellectual rework would be needed.
Professor Kit Sims Taylor in his study, which he presented at the International Conference on the Social Impact of Information Technologies in Oct 1998, found that an R&D professional spends nearly 33% of the productive time in intellectual rework. 2/3 of the time is spent in actual knowledge finding and only 10% in the creation of new knowledge.
Let’s consider the same Fortune 1000 company and let’s assume that per year $5000 per employee comes as intellectual rework cost. Thus, for 500 employees, it would come out to be $2,500,000 per year.
These two scenarios were based on quantifiable issues of not finding the right information and a direct result of the same. There is one more issue of opportunity costs of not finding the right information which rather goes unnoticed.
To calculate the opportunity cost, let’s assume the same Fortune 1000 company is having revenue of $600,000 per employee. The calculation of opportunity costs will be 500 employees*10 hours of search* 33% time spent in finding non-existent information*revenue per hour which is roughly equal to $475961.5
Thus, in total, a company for which 500 R&D engineers work, when they don’t find the right information, the company in a year suffers a loss of $ 2,500,000 + $3,744,000 + $475,961.50 = $ 6.7 million. This is among the least discussed topics and it has a big impact on the budget and productivity of an R&D team.
The good news is that a CIPO can save his/her R&D team from investing resources in finding non-existent information and conducting dead-end research that leads to $3,744,000 in wasted hours and $475,961.50 in opportunity costs. S/he can use patent analytics to provide their R&D team curated information they are looking for.
Let’s assume your organization is one of the leading smartphone manufacturing companies. Your R&D team faces the challenge to reduce the size of a wireless charger while increasing its range without affecting living beings with radiation. You can help the team by getting all the patents filed to solve similar problems during a particular time period — in last one year or last 18 months.
You can instruct your in-house patent analytics team or outsourcing partner to tweak the report in a manner that it contains the problem solved and the solution discussed in each patent. This will further save the time of your team as team members won’t be reading each patent completely. They will be sifting through the problem-solution approach and will only be reading a patent completely when they find technical knowledge to be highly relevant.
Another benefit of this type of report is that it will save your R&D team from inventing something that has already been invented by someone else. Thus, the issue of reinventing would be taken care of automatically.
Further, this will give your R&D team an intel on how researchers at other companies are approaching a problem. There are fair chances of your team finding inspiration to work on new ideas by getting exposed to different type of solutions being invented across the industry.
“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.”
In order to become the innovation flag bearer of your organization, a corporate IP chief could use patent analytics to help the R&D team in the following ways:
Helping Set a Clear R&D Focus: A CIPO can use different criteria to filter out information that can help him/her find areas ripe for innovation for the R&D team. S/he can also use strategies like whitespace analysis to find technological areas where the organization has a chance to get a first mover advantage and file more patents.
Helping Reduce the Product Development Cycle by External Collaboration: Right collaboration has a positive impact on R&D productivity. A CIPO can use patent analytics to figure out partners that could be considered for collaboration.
Competitive Insights to Make Strategic Move: A CIPO can provide crucial insights after analyzing the research landscape. S/he can predict technological shifts and can update the R&D team regarding the upcoming new waves.
Cross-Industry Innovation: A CIPO can use the power of patent analytics to help his/her R&D team spot solutions devised by other industries to solve their industry problems.
Helping R&D People Find the Right Information at the Right Time: One of the biggest hurdles knowledge workers face is of not finding the right information at the right time. This increases the burden on the R&D budget and also increases the product development cycle. A CIPO can use patent analytics in a strategically new way to eliminate this problem.
Conclusion: A CIPO has various roles and responsibilities s/he has to handle for effective implementation of R&D and patent strategy. However, making informed decisions requires access to insights that are deeper than mere industry experience, something which CIPOs of many innovative companies that we work with, often praise us for. Interested in knowing how we can help you achieve the bigger goals of your organization’s IP and R&D teams? Hear in our own words, click here to get in touch.
Authored By: Shikhar Sahni, AVP, Operations, and Nitin Balodi, Team Lead, Market Research
Blockchain, with its emergence, has brought companies of several domains on their doors and one of those domains is telecommunications. As communication service providers are openly accepting the disruptive power of Blockchain technology in their systems, the market of the amalgamation is increasing at a steady pace.
Valued at $46.6 million in 2018, the market is estimated to be $993.8 million by 2023 — an 84.4% increase in CAGR. With this estimation, we can say that research in blockchain for telecom solutions would surely be increasing as the technology could grant the telecom industry the powers to overcome the challenges which the industry have been facing for some time.
Here is the table of contents for your perusal, if you’d like to jump to a particular section of your interest.
What are the major challenges in front of the telecom industry?
Besides many other challenges, the main problem the telecom industry faces is generating revenue. The telecom industry has been losing a little average revenue per user over the years in almost every region across the globe. The image below portrays the falling revenue of the telecom industry.
There are several challenges that the telecom industry is facing, to which Blockchain can act as ‘the solution’. Further, there are several advancements that Blockchain can push the telecom industry toward, or at least help them in their endeavors.
Some of these challenges or opportunities removable or achievable respectively through Blockchain have been specified below –
Blockchain can be implemented to improve the authentication aspect. Blockchain can help in reducing fraud in telecom systems through eSIM provisioning that can imply quicker, easier mobile connection, overall cost reductions, and many more benefits.
5G Networks and Connectivity Complexities
Telcos can accelerate their progress toward 5G by using Blockchain. With Blockchain, each access point can act as a monitoring node, optimizing bandwidth allocation and securing it dynamically. Selection of the fastest access node among heterogeneous access networks and diverse access mechanisms will be a major achievement through 5G.
Untapped Opportunities of Telecommunications
Bringing Blockchain into the telecom market can help enhance OSS and BSS opportunities. The Blockchain Council, a California-based group, has pointed huge opportunity in OSS/BSS processes in the service provider’s back office, such as device connectivity provisioning and number portability.
IoT and Increasing Information Insecurity
IoT cellular connections will reach in billions by next decade. The growth of IoT and increasing data insecurity are directly proportional. Blockchain can be utilized to improve data integrity, track the history of individual devices by recording a ledger of data, autonomously conducting a variety of transactions, etc. With such opportunities, the Blockchain Internet Of Things (BIoT) market is estimated to reach USD 254.31 billion by 2026.
How Blockchain can help in overcoming the telecom challenges?
As Blockchain can able to tackle fraud and security threats, the telecom industry is using the technology to overcome the issues related to these threats.
Blockchain-based telecom solutions for the aforementioned pain-points could not only find in patents, but can also be seen in the market.
Subscriber ID Fraud
It occurs when a subscriber uses false identification to obtain telecom services. Current solutions for this problem are either weak or expensive and are sometimes not up-to-date.
Solution evident in the market
Using Blockchain, a private key is associated with each of the connected device, which is difficult to steal. This private key is used as authentication in the network instead of the IMSI, which is prone to leak.
Solutions depicted in patents
Coinplug – CN108496382A – The authentication number used for mobile device authentication is encrypted and the public key is stored in a Blockchain server. This blocks the possibility of tampering the key.
Comba – CN107734502A – A communication method whereby an authentication request is sent to a Blockchain network by a micro base station that corresponds to the requesting access node and is verified by the other nodes on the network.
Samsung – US20180063709A1 – An authentication method wherein enterprise network receives a user context record (UCR) and calculates an authenticity score in order to determine the validity of a mobile device; the UCRs are stored in block-chained Merkle trees.
It occurs when the home network is liable to pay for the bill, but is not able to charge the subscriber for the same. It exploits two loopholes of the existing network: longer detection time and longer response time.
Solution evident in the market
A Blockchain can be implemented between every pair of operators having a roaming agreement. The agreement is a smart contract that is triggered when a transaction related to a call is broadcasted on the Blockchain network and instantaneous authorization happens.
Solutions depicted in patents
China Mobile – CN108496382A – A charging method in which CDR and billing data is stored in a Blockchain; the system is distributed such that each operator node can verify the integrity of the communication billing data.
Software-based subscription management systems are needed that would work with the upcoming software-based SIMs instead of the conventional physical SIM cards.
Solution evident in patents
SAP – US20180220292A1 – A subscription management application, whose persistence layer stores information originating from a subscription Blockchain and the API layer retrieves information from the Blockchain and updates it.
In a mobile communication network, if GPS signals are weak, locating the mobile terminals becomes difficult and so does verifying the authenticity of location broadcast by other nodes.
Solution evident in patents
Beihang University – CN107172586A – A cellular positioning method wherein relative locations of the terminals are stored in a Blockchain, whose blocks can be regarded as trusted nodes of a consensus mechanism; and users can accurately position their own location information in the network.
Telecom is a big industry and big industry like telecom often have many big issues. And if blockchain has already been started solving such issues, there is no surprise that many companies and startups are trying to research in this technology for solving telecom’s issues.
Besides that, telecom companies are also trying to solve their problems using Blockchain technology.
But which telecom companies are researching in blockchain? And how far they have gone? And which startups can help telecom companies in that matter and how?
There is a lot of research and implementation going on to provide solutions for the telecom industry using Blockchain technology. This study could give you an idea about the level of intensity in which the research is going on by various companies.
Knowing which companies are researching and on which applications can help you anticipate your next strategy. We hope this study could aid in your efforts to formulate an efficient Telecom-Blockchain strategy.
It is a long study and the table of contents below will give you a sneak peek into what you’d find here.
Patent Data of Telecom and Blockchain’s Fusion
The blockchain patent landscape study indicates that since 2009, more than 160 patent applications have been filed which covers the solutions for problems faced by the telecom industry. Out of ~160 patent applications, 32 applications are closely related to the blockchain technology that solves some problem of telecom systems. Currently, out of those 32 applications, only 2 patents have been granted.
The other 130 patent applications are distantly related to blockchain technology that can be connected to the telecom solutions.
Patent Filing Activity
The realization of Blockchain in Telecom is considerably recent, hence the count of patents is scanty. However, research activity has picked pace in recent time as countries like the US, China, Europe etc. have filed a good amount of patent applications since 2015.
The chart below portrays the distribution of patent filing activity in the domain across the globe. It could be seen that the major segment (~63%) of the patent filing has originated from the United States. China and Europe come 2nd and 3rd respectively but hold very little share.
Now that we had a look at the geographical distribution of patent filing activity in the domain, let’s have a look at the top players researching in the domain.
It could be seen that some of the well-known companies and universities have secured patents in blockchain-telecom solutions.
British Telecom currently holds the most number of core patents (5+) related to the implementation of blockchain in telecom. There are other core patents held by individual inventors and universities too.
Important Tip: The universities’ and individual inventors’ patents may act as good acquisition targets giving the company an edge over others.
Chinese telecom operator China Mobile is also researching in this direction and has filed one patent. It is highly likely that China Mobile does more research in the future and files more patents.
Apart from it, there are some other Chinese entities and universities (e.g. Huawei, Beihang University, Comba, Shanghai Dianrong Info Tech, Nanjing University, Beijing University, etc.) that have filed patents in this domain.
We expect that more Chinese players will take an interest.
Blockchain-based Platform Providers
A number of companies — big and small, telco and non-telco — have made moves toward the amalgamation of Blockchain in the telecommunication industry.
BubbleTone builds Blockchain-based telecom ecosystem that provides direct interaction between mobile network operators, phone users, and service providers.
Problem Targeted – Roaming
The ecosystem revolves around the idea of eliminating roaming costs and providing travelers the facility to directly connect to a foreign mobile network. The numbers entail a success story with the service being used by as many as 1.2 billion travelers a year.
With BubbleTone Blockchain, mobile providers can offer international roaming and expand their user base without any acquisition cost. Moreover, they can easily eliminate the need to engage in exceedingly expensive roaming agreements, which can cost over $15 million to establish and maintain.
A notable partnership of BubbleTone has been established in Feb 2018 — with a California-based company ShoCard, which provides Blockchain-based digital identity management (IM) platform capable of verifying identities without handling any personal data.
Using ShoCard’s patented solution (US9722790B2), BubbleTone is able to securely and verifiably authenticate the end user’s digital identification.
An intuitive strategy that BubbleTone — holding a 20-year experience in Telecom Industry — is following to etch themselves on the map is teaming up with Blockchain scientists in leading universities and academic centers globally to do additional tests and reviews of their unique implementation. In fact, several of its advisors have held dignified positions in esteemed universities like MIT, Griffith University; and served terms in reputed companies like Orange UK, Microsoft, and Siemens.
Such teaming-ups and hiring strategies make up a to-be-followed action pointer for all telecom companies that want to excel in this amalgamation.
Top Collaborations in the Blockchain-Telecom Domain
Collaboration with Telecom Players
Four major Telcos collaborated for using Blockchain in bandwidth services
The prime objective of the PoC is to showcase how inter-carrier bandwidth services can be discovered, quoted, delivered, and settled without a central intermediary. Currently, inter-carrier options aren’t automated and are performed through conventional OSS and BSS. This PoC is a much-awaited move.
Spanish Telefónica collaborated with a Blockchain startup to develop smartphone security solutions. Telefónica, the number one Spanish multinational, market capitalisation-wise, and one of the largest global private telecommunications companies, partnered in May 2018 with a Blockchain startup Rivetz to develop smartphone security solutions.
The collaborators aim to amalgamate Telefonica’s network security services with the latter’s Blockchain and trusted-computing technologies to implement decentralized solutions and improve applications for secure messaging and cryptocurrency wallets. They plan to provide a product in the later quarter of the year.
In late 2017, when SAP organized its event TechEd in Barcelona, Spain, it also announced a collaborative Blockchain program.
One of the 27 firms, who joined hands with SAP in TechEd, was Deutsche Telekom — the largest telecommunications provider in Europe, revenue-wise. Hartmut Mueller, SVP Business Solutions, Deutsche Telekom IT, said, “At Deutsche Telekom, we see a big potential for Blockchain technology in the telecommunication business. Our cooperation with SAP will speed up digitalization to the benefit of our customers.”
Patent Targeted at Telecom
The interest of SAP in the fusion of Blockchain in telecom is also portrayed from the IP that it holds in the context. One of its patents US20180220292A1 entails a Blockchain-based subscription management application for managing subscriptions like those of telecommunications.
RedHat provides dedicated open software solutions for CSPs; has now come up with Blockchain-as-a-Service platform.
RedHat provides open source solutions for several domains including telecommunications. In fact, it boasts an extensive list of Fortune 500 telcos that rely on its solutions. It has names like ZTE Corporation on the list, who has collaborated with Red Hat for prepping its move into 5G.
Now, Red Hat also comes up with a Blockchain-as-a Service solution, called BlockApps STRATO, which is designed specifically for enterprise businesses to build proofs-of-concept (POCs).
This portrays that Red Hat provides sheer advanced and reliable platforms and famed telcos have approached it for marking themselves on the map of newest advancements.
Patent Targeted at Telecom
Red Hat also holds IP revolving around amalgamating telecom with Blockchain e.g. US20180048738A1. The invention discusses a method for reducing latency when performing Blockchain transactions using a wireless telecommunication system. In essence, it implements a Blockchain by multiple base transceiver stations in the wireless telecommunication system, rather than using servers communicating over the Internet — wherein the latter cause delay due to multiple hops of information across the servers.
This also highlights how Red Hat is interested in the amalgamation of Blockchain with the telecommunications industry. This makes the company a dependable entity for top telecommunication companies.
Collaboration with Universities
University of Southern California
USC participated as one of the sponsors of a one-day session in collaboration with Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) — the agenda of the session was to bring together global telecom leaders to discuss the Enterprise Ethereum future of Blockchain, which also entails Blockchain telecom use-cases.
The university has showcased quite an interest in the Blockchain technology with dedicated courses in its curriculum. A point to highlight here is its close coordination with Telekom Innovation Laboratories (T-Labs), the R&D unit of the German telco Deutsche Telekom. T-Labs has Blockchain technology as one of its major research areas. Moreover, the newly appointed head of T-Labs, John Calian, is also serving as Vice President, Blockchain Technologies at Deutsche.
Funding and Investment in Blockchain-based Startups
Orange, one of the biggest European telcos, has been interested in Blockchain for telecom since 2015. Back in late 2015, Orange participated in a funding round of a 2014 Blockchain-based startup Chain with several financial players alongside. About the investment, Chain CEO Adam Ludwin expressed:
“We are thrilled to partner with Orange to explore the uses of Blockchain networks in the telecom market. We believe these new networks will simplify data transfer between carriers and enable new services that will improve end-user experiences.“
Per some recent happenings of Sep 2018, Chain has been acquired by a subsidiary of a Blockchain-platform provider Stellar Development Foundation, resulting in the formation of a new entity, called Interstellar. However, as the acquisition is quite recent, there is no disclosure yet of how the newly formed entity will approach the telecom industry.
Startup Acquisition Opportunities
QLC Chain: The world’s first Public Chain for Decentralized Network-as-a-Service
Developed open-source telecom infrastructure on Blockchain
QLC Chain, formerly famous as a “Qlink”, is a decentralized mobile network, focused on building an open-source telecom infrastructure on Blockchain. In fact, they rebranded themselves from Qlink to QLC Chain to deliver a clear message of the team’s intention to leverage advanced blockchain technology to the network industry, in a simpler, transparent and secure way.
The infrastructure is decentralized whereby users can deploy QLC Base Stations, which support LTE-U protocol, POW, and POS consensus algorithm. Thus, anyone can operate a small base station from their home that can provide cell service to the surrounding area.
Monetization of network resources
Moreover, QLC Chain has very recently — in mid-October 2018 — launched another of their innovative ideas TestNet, with which network users can monetize their own network resources.
Blockchain-based telecommunication solutions in automobile
QLC Chain has been making moves toward exploring domains for their technology to grow. It has signed a cooperation agreement with Cenntro Automotive Group with the aim to develop Internet of Vehicle (IoV) technologies by deploying Blockchain-based telecommunication solutions.
Consortiums – Strategies that can be expected in future
Telecom Companies Calling Out to Consortiums: Banding Together for Blockchain
By now, it has been evident in the tech sector that Blockchain is a technology that requires collaboration to be effective, which has led companies — both allies and competitors — to begin working together in consortia. The trend is no different for players of the telecom sector. Let’s have a look at some of the notable consortiums in the domain.
It is a Blockchain consortium created by a global conglomerate of tech companies with the aim to integrate Blockchain technology in the world of telecoms. In early 2018, a number of multinational telecom companies joined CBSG to aid in the endeavor; a few new members include Spain’s telco Telefonica, United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat, and Philippine’s PLDT.
A Deep Domain Analysis for Decision Makers
It’s just an overview of research in blockchain for telecom solutions. The detailed analysis for this domain have the answers to the following questions:
How is our research benchmarked against other players?
What are collaboration, merger & acquisition opportunities for technology scouting?
How is the SWOT on startups/companies of interest?
Which companies to watch out that are having competing products or technologies?
What other players are focusing on R&D?
In which countries research activity has increased drastically and which players to watch out in those areas?
Are there any signs of disruptors and what are they researching?
What issues/feature improvements are focused by prominent industry players?
Which other industries are intersecting on my domain and are there some solutions that can be adopted?
Want these questions answered? Click here if you just nodded in affirmative.
Digital Equipment Corporation, a leader in the computer market for decades does not exist today. Why?
Because they failed to grasp the trends. Instead of continuing in the direction of progressive innovation, the then president of DEC, Mr. Ken Olsen, was skeptical of the success of desktop computers market and went as far to say – “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home”, during a talk.
We all know what followed. Don’t we?
DEC is only an example and there are many others. Eastman Kodak, Border books, Blockbuster, the list goes on. One common denominator for their failure is that they did not align their businesses with technological progress.
It might make one ponder – How could it have been avoided?
This might sound unconventional, but patent counsels(IP Counsel; term used interchangeably) could have helped avoid the failure of these businesses along with many others.
A lot of you might wonder – How can patent counsels help organizations from failing? Isn’t their job limited to the prosecution, maintenance, and monetization of the patent portfolio?
A Patent counsel has multiple responsibilities in their job profile, and while prosecution, maintenance, and monetization form a significant part, an important yet most overlooked of their KPIs is to help formulate the innovation strategy of the organization. This very KPI could help organizations from failing. Let me explain how.
How Patent Counsels Can help set the direction of Innovation for an Organization?
With changing times where every innovation needs to be protected to have a significant hold over a market, it has become paramount to have a patent strategy that is in sync with the business strategy of an organization. But more often, organizations (Read patent counsel) consider patents merely as an offensive or defensive tool and fail to leverage the futuristic insights, which can set them ahead of the competition.
Patents, as we know them, are an index to the future. Analysis of patent filing data can tell a lot about technological trends. By identifying whitespaces or innovative areas that resonate with the business areas of an organization, IP counsels can help frame innovation strategy such that an organization indulges in progressive innovation while continuing to expand their portfolio in the domain they already operate in.
Patent filing data could be leveraged to find what would be the next big thing, the technologies that would rule the future and even give a glimpse of technologies that would cease in the near future. These insights, if acted upon, can give an organization formulate a proper R&D strategy, which could help R&D teams decide where next to invest their resources which can gain a high ROI for the organization.
How Patent Counsels Can Use Patent Data to Decide Where R&D Investment Should be Made?
Let us take an example to drive the point home. Consider the below chart comparing two communication protocol technologies in embedded systems and its growth in the past 15 years. Back in 2001, Bluetooth was the de-facto standard and Zigbee was a small player. But tables turned in the next 5 years and Zigbee’s growth outranked Bluetooth.
We know today’s situation where Zigbee leads the market of communication protocols for smart homes. Companies that acted on this insight and innovated pretty early reaped the fruit. One such company was Chipcon, a mixed signal and wireless chip company, which introduced CC2430, the very first Zigbee System on a chip solution, which went on to become highly successful. Chipcon was acquired by Texas Instruments five months within the launch of CC2430 for a whopping 200M. As a result of the acquisition, Texas Instruments is regarded as one of the top vendors in the home automation market.
Acting on the insights from patent filing data can prove to be highly beneficial for an organization, helping it to reach its zenith.
How Patent Counsels Can Communicate these Insights to Business Teams?
In a perfect world, IP counsels can communicate these insights to business teams which would give them precious clues about the technological trends, and business teams would take actions accordingly that would decide the direction in which R&D would take place, enabling progressive innovation.
But, we don’t live in a perfect world.
It is often the case that the business teams are so engrossed in their R&D efforts that they don’t pay much heed to whatever IP counsels have to say. The claims of IP counsel often go unheard and results in a loss for the organization in the future.
How to make them listen to you?
The dominant question is – What can IP Counsel do so that the business teams do not just listen to their comments, but also take business decisions accordingly?
The solution to the problem is not very complex.
It is often found that the insights submitted by the legal teams have a lot of legal jargon, which makes it difficult for business teams to leverage the data. When it comes to conveying an idea, it is always better to support them with facts in an easy-to-understand format.
For instance, consider that you work for a Multi-national organization that manufactures solar cells.
Now, all you have to do is to communicate it to the business team so that you everything is agreed upon to get started.
How would you present this to the business team?
You could either have this conversation-
Well, you lost the attention of the business team when G filed H patents in I land!
Or you can do it this way!
When it comes to presenting insights, facts presented with visual cues are much more effective. The key is effective communication combined with solid insights presented in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand format.
Consider for the instance that your company operates in Video games domain.
A look at the communication devices patent filing data reveals that in the last few years, there has been an increase in numbers of patents filed in the head-mounted display domain. Now, you can suggest the business teams to invest in developing games that are HMD-compatible in a similar manner.
This won’t just warm you up for the race in the future but also help in claiming a niche spot among the top players.
If the legal and business teams of an organization collaborate, nothing can stop them from succeeding. Success lies in unity, after all.
Dear IP Counsel, Go ahead and identify those unexplored areas that will help your organization grow.
In case you’re wondering how you can get these insights, you need to get a landscape analysis done.
Authored by: Anjali Chopra, Senior Business Analyst in collaboration with Mahesh Maan, Team Lead, Search Team
Running a successful organization is not an easy task. There are multitudes of goals to track, competitors to beat and a product line to build and protect to survive in the cut-throat race. During those times, a patent portfolio is the best weapon for an organization that can act both as a shield and sword when the need arises.
A patent portfolio can serve multiple purposes – It could be used defensively to protect the product line of a company, offensively to monopolize the market and eliminate competition, and strategically to start a flow of licensing revenue for the organization.
There are so many what-ifs that if answered, could extract a high ROI on your portfolio. Is there any way to answer these questions?
Yes, there is.
How SWOT Analysis can help extract High ROI from a Patent Portfolio?
The answer to all the questions can be revealed by performing a SWOT — popular method to evaluate the strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats of a project — on your patent portfolio.
During SWOT Analysis of a patent portfolio, the patents are studied and categorized into four major categories — Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats — revealing major insights related to each of the categories.
SWOT Analysis is not limited to the examination of a portfolio of an organization alone; it could be conducted on portfolios of the competitors to either carry out market research or to determine threats of litigation from the competitors. Analysis can also be conducted for Countersue Risk assessment, Competitive Analysis, Merger & Acquisitions or out-licensing programs.
What purpose does each of these analyses serve? — You ask. Let’s have a brief look at each of them with the help of examples.
Consider the following instance where the goal is to evaluate the portfolio of an organization for due diligence prior to an M&A or tech transfer. The organization on the buying end would want to estimate the value of the portfolio prior to the deal. In such cases, strength analysis would be a great way to decide whether the deal should be made or not.
For example, consider if a medical equipment manufacturer (Say EquipTech) wants to buy the patent portfolio of a company (Say Medtech) that is on the edge of ceasing operations due to funding constraints. Prior to the deal, the strength analysis revealed that the portfolio has a very high-quality ratio confirming that the company has made some solid investment on its IP.
Now, the strength of Medtech’s patents gets it into a good position to demand more than the amount offered in the deal. Since the portfolio is indeed good, EquipTech has to agree to the deal as it wants to have a solid grip in the domain.
EquipTech now is in a fix whether to pay the high amount asked by Medtech’s attorneys or not. One solution for EquipTech is to acquire the partial portfolio of Medtech from areas where EquipTech has lesser or no patents.
But how to find the weak and strong areas for EquipTech portfolio?
Quiz time: What’s the next most important reason for patent acquisitions other than protecting inventions?
To get litigation royalties.
Getting litigation royalties is not possible if a product does not infringe on someone’s patent. But if you have hundreds of patents being infringed by others, which is not very unusual nowadays, how do you find out which patent is under litigation against which defendant?
Countersue management is the solution as all patents of a portfolio are categorized based on the number of defendants along with the list of defendants and the patents being infringed.
As an example, a look at the litigation landscape below can give a good idea on not only litigation data but also of the defendants in question for each patent.
This is very much similar to a visual to-do list of cases to fight for the IP counsel.
There is one more thing that is very important while performing a portfolio analysis. Figuring out the competitors and the amount they invested in their IP compared to your organization. Based on the information, the PRDI ratio can be calculated and it could be figured out as to how an organization fares when compared to the top competitors in the domain for each respective field.
The chart below depicts the IP expenses of an organization along with the categories of domains in which it has a patent. It could be seen that the organization has spent almost half of its IP expenditure on patient management and also has a high density of patents related to patient management. For the particular domain, when compared to its competitors, the organization has a larger number of patents in the patient management system.
To sum it up, a SWOT analysis can be a great tool to find out the good and bad parts of your patent portfolio. It could come to your rescue no matter what your end objective is, be it a countersue-risk assessment, due diligence prior to an M&A, self-portfolio optimization or anything else.
A SWOT analysis is a multipurpose solution that would answer all your questions. Want to get one done? Get in touch.
Today, we will give you four instances where prior art was excavated from places that would, for sure, surprise you.
Prior Art in a Cartoon Series
Chances are that you may know about this case already. This is a quite famous story among patent attorneys.
It was September of 1964 when a freighter carrying 5500 sheep docked at Kuwait’s harbor. Only 500 sheep were unloaded when something went wrong and the freighter capsized with remaining 5000 sheep on board.
The dying sheep started contaminating the water around the harbor, which was a threat to the city’s water supply. The freighter needed to be raised right away. Using cranes was not a good idea as it was time-consuming and could have broken the hull into pieces.
Karl Kroyer, a Danish inventor, came up with a brilliant idea of filling the freighter with plastic balls. In the month of December, he filled the capsized freighter with approx. 27 million plastic balls and hit the nail on the head.
Karl later went ahead with filing a patent (NL6514306) on his idea. And contrary to what you are thinking, his patent got rejected. It is said that the examiners at Dutch PTO found a similar method of raising a ship in one of Donald Duck’s stories.
In late 1949, in a story of Donald Duck, he used ping pong balls (buoyant object) to raise a sunken yacht from a lake. Who might have thought that Mr. Donald Duck had already invented a solution for a non-existing problem?
Prior Art in a Comic Book
Another similar case we found is a patent titled “Entry system for pets”. The system referred to a bell/buzzer mounted outside a home, which can be used by pets to indicate owner to open the gate or whatsoever purpose.
Well, this seems quite unique, right? But what happened here was a Déjà vu. The examiner found an almost exactly same device drawn on the first page of the Beano comic 2015, which his daughter was reading at the dining table. Great!
The patent was granted, however, with a cited reference to the comic.
This again shows how a prior art might be hiding in places somebody can’t even imagine finding.
Not only comics but sometimes speech and videos can be used as a strong reference. This happened to Apple with its Rubber-banding effect patent.
The German court found a prior art lying in Apple’s closet. The concept was revealed by Steve Jobs in his keynote video of 2007.
In the keynote video, Steve demonstrated the bounce back effect of an image in the new iPhone. This effect is known as rubber-banding and was covered in the patent. But, as it was already revealed publicly by the company itself, the patent grant halted.
Apple’s attorney brought several points to the table to differ the tech from what was shown in the video. The PTO, as a result, approved 3 out of 20 claims of the patent.
Finding this kind of prior art was more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack, especially when the reference was hiding in the company’s own old keynote video. Still found.
Prior Art in a Movie
Going further with our post, the fourth case we have included in our list is of Apple again.
Apple and Samsung are quite famous for their lawsuit battles. This time they were fighting for a design patent. Apple claimed that Samsung has copied the design of the iPad for its Galaxy Tab.
In defense, Samsung demonstrated that Apple had patented a common design of a square display with rounded corners which is quite popular in movies.
As a proof, Samsung referred to “2001: The Space Odyssey”, a science fiction film released in 1968. Below is a screenshot from the movie.
The judge at London high court opined that Samsung tab was not that cool to be confused with iPad. Apple lost the case.