There is no doubt that intellectual property is a valuable business asset, but in this day and age, when companies are working to trim costs wherever possible, chief IP officers at large corporations are forced to walk a tightrope of fiscal responsibility.
“The largest issue facing IP officers is cost management, the ability to address all of the IP issues that we have within the budget restraints,” says Glenn Edwards, president, corporate intellectual property at Dräger. “It’s more of a challenge every year.”
For a multinational manufacturer of medical and safety technology operating in many different regions of the world, there are other challenges as well. Edwards cites recent changes in Asia and South America as well as legal activity in the United States, including the America Invents Act. These factors have put pressure on IP specialists to address costs.
“IP is more relevant every year,” he says. “As long as I’ve been practicing it’s become more and more important, more part of the business value. If you are in a tech company, it’s critical to have a strong IP strategy, using IP to benefit the company.” With this rise in relevance, there has been increased media attention on issues such as patent battles between tech giants and the scourge of non-practicing entities (NPEs). These stories highlight how much money is spent on IP portfolios and how critical they are to business.
In the medical technology space, NPEs are still a concern. Companies like Dräger are working to cope with NPEs, since these businesses operate quite differently from traditional operating companies. “Since the financial crisis of the last five years, many patents are available on the market,” Edwards says. “They were obtained by many organizations and companies whose whole business model is leveraging the portfolios they put together, and some tech companies have been the victims of these entities.”
But patents are not the only area of intellectual property on the mind of Glenn Edwards. He is also concerned with the “softer” IP, such as trademarks. With the rise of e-commerce, says Edwards, this has become more of a hot topic. “The misappropriation of brands and trademarks on products offered on the Internet are not just limited to consumer products but now more business to business products. Medical and safety devices are now available over the Internet, so this is a challenge,” Edwards explains.
He notes a rash of entities that are not authorized to use certain brand names, entities that have tried to hijack search terms to direct potential buyers to knockoff products that are not often legally compliant with regulations. This hijacking of brand names and trademarks in the virtual space is something that medical tech companies must now deal with in addition to various patent matters that might come to light.
For more on patents and trademarks, check out the following: