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Category: Patents

There are 2 posts published under Patents.

Intellectual Property Deals Need a “Wingman”

Envision a world where workplace technology can serve as your “wingman.” What’s a workplace wingman you ask? It’s a super cool, digital assistant that’s always on – on the lookout to help you get your job done more efficiently, connect you to the most important people in your profession, or provides insights into topics that matter most.


In Intellectual Property (IP), the wingman can also be a matchmaker that seeks licensees or buyers for your intellectual property 24/7, or tees up the hottest news or trends that is associated to getting your IP deals done.


We all know that “humans don’t scale” – a term always bandied about in the tech world – but, with a digital wingman, you could have what feels like hundreds of helpers looking out for you. I have spent several years in the intellectual property space and observed several key issues endured in the workplace:


  • All IP professionals are overworked and have too many IP asset portfolios to manage
  • Current IP tools are geared only for research or IP is forever lost on a marketplace listing site
  • Not all IP professionals are comfortable connecting with deal stakeholders


These 3 issues all rely on the “human” factor, which does not scale. Priority of IP asset portfolio marketing is often performed as a “best guess” or simply given attention to those portfolios that are easily understood. IP should not be considered a “pet project.” It has a shelf life. Missed opportunities means lost revenue. Missed connections could lead to budget cuts in research and development. At worst, company innovation slowly dies.


Today, IP professionals are struggling to effectively and quickly reach the primary objective of IP licensing: “closing the license deal” (sometimes called tech transfer or commercialization). There are a myriad reasons as to why the final goal is not reached. Strategic processes may not be in play, from underutilized best practices to under incentivized employees. But a simple tool that is scalable and performs as a wingman can mitigate strategic issues, provide clearer market value, and add confidence by lowering the rejection level when implementing licensee outreach.


IP match technology should be used to objectively surface the portfolios that are “low hanging fruit” or closest to a deal. The matcher finds these portfolios by determining market viability – or verifying if there are actual licensees/buyers in the world that would be interested in the IP. The matcher, always on, assists where humans cannot scale:


  • It can incorporate an IP asset portfolio into the hundreds or thousands
  • It can find thousands of licensees – well beyond the IP professionals known “rolodex”


More importantly, the matcher solves these pain points automatically, without burdening the IP professional with additional tasks. The matcher operates by analyzing the portfolio’s content and intent, then translates that information into licensee business objectives. Once business objectives are understood, the matcher suggests potential licensing companies seeking or operating within those objectives, industry, or even within a cross-functional industry.


Those portfolios with the most licensing candidates, would surface as the top priority or potential to close the deal. Much like a match dating site, the licensor could instantly evaluate potential licensees, read their profiles, and determine who they want to communicate with (licensee outreach). If the licensee accepts the licensor’s outreach, then the licensee and licensor go on a date (meet and discuss deal terms). Now the licensor knows exactly when and with whom to start their research and due diligence, self-assured they are concentrating on the right deal. claims that their customers are 3 times more likely to enter into a relationship by using their technology than those who do not. The match concept for IP provides market information fast and efficiently, without interrupting the licensee or licensor’s current commercialization processes. If time kills deals then speed makes them successful. With similar odds and efficiency of a dating website, can the enterprise afford not having their wingman?


Patents and Open Source: Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too

Contrary to popular belief, protecting your business through patents is not necessarily at odds with an open-source approach.

The two can be combined with successful results. One dynamic start-up working in machine translation software filed a patent in its early days—but the inventor still refined the technology via an open source platform, helping to turn the technology into an industry standard.

Patents have many uses. They are more than a barrier to keep rivals out. They can be the basis for fruitful collaboration or vital commercial intelligence.  They can also help you build brand value. Patents are an asset but also a tool. For small companies and start-ups, patents may convince wary investors in the cautious money markets. The IP in any innovative project, and how it is managed, can be the dealmaker: in the early stages of a new venture, it might be the only thing that can secure finance.


Take the example of German computer scientist Philipp Koehn, who together with his professors at the University of Southern California, developed and patented a new model for statistical machine translation.


Translation by computers had been around for a long time but, until Koehn came along, machine translation had not come close to reaching its full potential. Koehn and his team came up with a phrase-based model (translating words in their context, rather than one word at a time), which was a cut above the old sluggish word-based systems. Their new technique found the best statistical match for words based on how often they appeared in pairs of existing translations. The results were astounding. Today most of the big names in Internet translation have integrated this technology. For their invention, Koehn’s team was nominated for the European Inventor Award 2013.


By patenting their technology, Koehn and his team could secure crucial financing (from both venture capitalists and public research programmes), and after seven years their company, Language Weaver, was bought by SDL for $42.5 million. But Koehn later opted for an open source approach, convinced that it could lead to broader research, development, and usage. At the University of Edinburgh, he started an open-source platform called Moses, which he still runs today. A community of enthusiastic researchers around the world can directly access and contribute to the software, effectively crowd-sourcing improvements.


The economic benefits are two-fold: Firstly, many companies have already integrated the free open source technology into their organisations, creating a big user- and client-base. Secondly, a multitude of new software companies have been founded, expected to turn phrase-based statistical machine translation and related services into a several billion-dollar market in the coming years.


Koehn understood that there is a huge world market for ‘imperfect’ translations that allow people who need a quick translation to get the gist of what is being said. Today Moses is used by big companies for document and website localisation, so customers all over the world can read their instruction manuals or properly install a computer programme.

Patents on software?

This example shows that the traditional proprietary patent model is not incompatible with open source. But it also debunks another myth, mainly about so-called “software patents.” It is true that the lines of code in a programme are protected only by copyright (like the lines of text in a story), but not by patents. However, a great many inventions we know today, like GPS, wi-fi, Bluetooth and mobile phones all rely on software. If they are new and inventive or solve a technical problem (“How can I use satellites to guide me to my destination?”) they can be patented.


Such patenting is possible when the product or process of the invention offers more than mere lines of software. The resulting patent protects the invention regardless of the particular lines of code or computing language used in the underlying software. Koehn’s phrase-based model of statistical machine-based translation is one of these “computer-implemented inventions.”


Of course, the value of non-patentable inventions cannot be denied. Much of the service industry sector, and the creative industries, have little use for patents, despite innovating to a very high degree. After all, only a minority of businesses are innovating in sectors where patent ownership is relevant. Even so, there are many other ways in which the patent system can be used to create commercial advantages.