Photo credit: Ecstaticist
At IPBC 2008 after Philips, it was TomTom and then Microsoft turn to be on stage.
Peter Spours started TomTom IP department 1 year ago: he said that when he started there were simply no money for ip!
But with a fast growing company, they needed to have an ip portfolio. When TomTom went public everybody went to court for patent infringement (against them)… The company is still very small, so there is a very close group of chief officers, and all transactions on the table are always seen as ip transactions as well. This sounds important: it means that IP issues are seen as critical and always central for SME’s operating in high technology sector. Mr Spours says that even though TomTom is only a 500 people company, taking care of the ip is a major challenge, as in this field everything moves so quickly that you cannot stop working and learning.
Here the mantra is: the only thing not changing is that everything changes.
Phelps (Microsoft) started in IBM ip department in 1992 and by 2001 turnover was around 2 billions dollars, with 90% profit. By doing venture capital he meet Microsoft. He asked for 300k investment, Bill Gates asked for him in return.
At that time Microsoft was without a proper IP organization. In 2002 Microsoft had only 3 crosslicensing agreements, now in 2008 it has 600. Phelps tells always to go and get related to other companies, go and relate to the world. Now at Microsoft they are filing 3k patents per year, and he is happy to be the only person in the world having worked as IP corporate officer for the 2 bigger monopolies on the planet! Microsoft is a particular ip corporation: they have only software and nothing else. So Phelps sees is job mainly as a business one, he sees his work as moving forward Microsoft business.
He states also that no one company can today control the vertical cycle, everybody needs to collaborate.
So Phelps urges to build strong ip relationships with the people you are dealing with. He sees 3 important areas in the next 5 years:
- open innovation
- new business model (you get the software you need for the time you want – saas)
- combination of free software and commercial software
This combination of open attitude, globalisation and strong ip protection is very common among ip officers. It is very clear to them (and to IP Faber also) that you need to cooperate with others in order to achieve big target, but at the same time you need to ensure you can defend your competitive advantage with the IP mean.