Risks and challenges, solutions and opportunities. A carefully designed patent strategy enables companies to successfully meet numerous challenges, such as claiming exclusive rights, staving off competitors, capturing ideas and bringing them to fruition, avoiding lawsuits or expensive licensing fees, and analyzing existing markets and competitors.
“Sweden is an innovative country and we are good at applying for patents, but we may not always understand the need to think strategically from the outset,” says Ström & Gulliksson Partner Björn Andersson.
To put it simply, in Björn’s opinion there are three different approaches to strategic advisory services in the patent field. One is to focus on creating the greatest possible earning capacity by using a company’s own patents to strengthen its market position. Another is to use patents to help the client build value in the company, which makes sense if the company’s next move is to raise capital or make an early exit. The third is to review and minimize risks by analyzing existing competitors in order to avoid infringing on their intellectual property rights. This process can also provide valuable information on what competitors are concentrating on, from both a marketing and a technical perspective.
“It’s frequently a matter of combining these approaches in a way that suits a client’s particular business. Basically, we are trying to maximize the client’s profitability in the short or long term,” says Andersson, who is pleased that an increasing number of companies understand the value of patents and that licensing can generate significant financial value.
“The Swedish business community has taken great inspiration from the major companies that realize significant returns on patented products and solutions. Just look at Apple vs. Samsung, or Ericsson’s groundbreaking efforts in mobile telephony licensing. In Sweden, we’re often good at pioneering new fields of technology. In recent years, we’ve also begun to utilize the patent system as a basis for securing returns on our R&D investments by collecting royalties from ‘straggler’ firms that benefit from our having blazed a trail and created a new field of technology.”
Innovation processes and long-term partnerships
Ström & Gulliksson can also create internal policies for company innovation processes based on questions such as: How do we encourage and cultivate our employees’ capacity for innovation? How do we share ideas with one another? How do we foster the capability to cultivate these ideas?
“We frequently assist companies in creating structures for documentation and internal communication on these issues. Both the working atmosphere and the working methods are important. An arrangement with clearly defined roles and procedures, often linked with a reward system for the inventors, is required for success.”
Historically, the life sciences have been at the cutting edge as far as patents are concerned, but now IT-related innovations account for a growing proportion of all patents.
“If someone said that it will be impossible to continue creating new inventions at the same speed as we do today, I wouldn’t believe them, because humans are innovators by definition. What we need to do instead is to adapt advisory services and systems to shorter lead times, and it’s important for both the court system and the patent system to keep up,” says Andersson, who went on to summarize the basic philosophy that enables Ström & Gulliksson to design business strategies, in addition to the patent firm’s technical and legal capabilities:
“Innovative companies seeking profitability require long-term partnerships and a significant mutual commitment. We can provide support at various levels and stages, and moreover do so simply and transparently. Sound advisory services essentially boil down to human relationships.”
Check out this Swedish article on Skåne’s patent market for digitalization and innovative startups in Sydsvenskan 8till5. “Let’s look at the traditional engineering industry. It’s undergoing digitalization. Numerous innovations have both an engineering foundation and a digital aspect as well. You also see this connection in life sciences, which needs to use IT heavily in its operations to continue advancing,” says Andersson.