Saturday, 28 February 2009

Apple and the IPhone: Can We Expect a Patent War?

Back in the saddle after several weeks away from the office and largely off-line, I have been reviewing various news items collected during my absence. One item immediately caught my attention--"Apple May Use 'Nuclear Arsenal' to Delay Palm's IPhone Rival," by Connie Guglielmo and Susan Decker, which appeared on February 2nd on Bloomberg.com.

Quite by chance, around the time that this item was published, I had posted my most recent MBA exam question, which focused on the various stages of the cellular/smartphone industry. From the IP vantage, the students were asked to address software copyright and trademark-branding issues, while the patent aspect was less highlighted in the question. The Bloomberg report has caused me to reconsider the potential role of patents in this industry, and especially the burgeoning smartphone business.

The article reported that Apple, and in particular Tim Cook, who has taken over the reigns of the company during the absence of Steve Jobs, has intimated that it would consider using its patent portfolio to challenge iPhone competitors, most notably Palm, which is scheduled to come out with its Pre smartphone within several months. Most recently (on January 20, 2009), Apple was awarded a patent for its so-called multitouch technology, which reportedly allows

"people [to] work the iPhone by touching the screen with two fingers and making swiping motions."
The next day, Cook was quoted as saying that "[w]e'll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal" to protect the company's IP.

Does the Apple Patent Arsenal Give iPhone Competitors a Sporting Chance?

A number of US patent practitioners offered their views about what how Apple can be expected to use its iPhone-related patent portfolio. Morgan Chu, a well-known IP litigator for Irell & Manella in LA, suggested that the move may be a form of "nuclear deterrent," whereby the very credibility of the threat forces competitors to redesign certain of their functional and technology features. As Chu noted, [t]he best deterrent of a nuclear arsenal is not to use it."

Robert Yoches, an attorney at IP giant Finnegan and Henderson in D.C, observed that Apple has historically been more successful in taking on competitors in the marketplace than in the courtroom. Yoches did not, however, explicitly state that Apple might break with custom in the current situation.

This is especially if the Pre phone is viewed as a "bet the company"-type of product for Palm, and litigation by Apple could have materially delay the launch of the Pre as well as force Palm to expend substantial sums in defense. Of course, if Apple would prevail in such an action, the injunction (if granted under the more stringent standard for awarding a permanent injunction in a patent infringment action following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the eBay case in 2006), the affect on Palm could be far worse.

As for the patented technology itself, while Jobs described it as "phenomenol" and "magic", the article suggests that it might be less path-breaking than alleged. It notes that iPhone competitors have challenged the claim, and other companies--Nokia Oyi, Samsung Electronics Co, and Research in Motion--are reported to own patents related to the technology and to incorporate touch screens into its product. While these observations might temper Apple's ardor for pursuing a legal action, it certaintly does not of itself suggest that Apple might completely forego a sabre-rattling strategy against Palm or others.

Apple and Palm Smartphones: Another View

I do not know quite what to make of all this. On the one hand, as a colleague of mine from New York observed over lunch last week, clients seem less willing than in past recessions to embark on potentially expensive patent litigation proceedings. Sure a law suit might cost Palm, but it will cost Apple as well. On the other hand, credible threats and well-executed brinkmanship on the part of Apple could well achieve the desired efect (unless, of course, Palm reaches the conclusion tht has nothing to gain by settlement, nor matter how skilled the brinkmanship).

Friday, 27 February 2009

IP taxation - a book review

The second edition of Anne Fairpo's Taxation of Intellectual Property has now been published by Tottel. The book's web page describes this as a ‘must have’ for all tax and accountancy practitioners whose lot it is to advise "commercial organisations of all sizes". According to the publishers this book

"- is completely updated the latest legislation including ITEPA 2003, ITTOIA 2005, Income Tax Act 2007;
- Incorporates the Finance Act 2008;
- Considers the impact of R&D tax credits and 2008 increases;
- provides specialist technical guidance for tax practitioners, set in a commercial context".
Anne, who has contributed to this weblog (here), is an IP tax specialist at Wragge & Co. She is a solicitor and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Tax, where she is also a Council member and a member of technical sub-committees.  If she seems a bit scary to readers of this blog, the good news is that the book is not at all scary. It has a very comfortable feel to it: small pages, clear print, lucidly written in footnote-free prose and packed with short, realistic examples that correspond to client problems -- just what you need for an accessible introduction to this often impenetrable subject.  Best of all, the book comes with an online update blog (here).

Bibliographic detail: ISBN 9781845924881 and 978 1 84592 488 1; xvi + 409 pages paperback; £95. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

More goodwill impairment

The current economic conditions affect businesses of all industries. With equity values tumbling, another round of impairment charges takes its toll – not only at Coca Cola, as previously reported on this blog.

Goodwill write-downs usually have no effect on a company's cash holdings, however can indicate that the company has overpaid for a previous acquisition so that its balance sheet needs adjusting. This raises – again – the question of how much discretion companies should have in allocating goodwill and determining its value.

The economic downturn has forced many companies to take non-cash charges for impairment of goodwill on deals made during the M&A heyday.

Novelis, the Canadian subsidiary of Indian aluminium major Hindalco, reported an impairment charge of $1.5 billion, consisting of a $1.3 billion reduction in the value of goodwill and a $160 million write-down of Novelis' investment in Aluminium Norf GmbH. Expedia reported a fourth-quarter loss of $2.76 billion last week, mostly due to a $3 billion write-down in the value of goodwill and other intangible assets, following a sharp drop in the company's stock price and market capitalization.

Other recent earnings announcements with goodwill impairment charges include wireless provider Sprint Nextel (who just wrote down the last $1 billion of its goodwill impairment for its 2005 Nextel purchase), leading gold producer Barrick Gold ($773 million), steel producer Gerdau ($1.2 billion), and direct mail giant Valassis ($245.7 million).

More recent announcements can be found here. Our report on the recently published FRC Review of Goodwill Impairment Disclosures looking into accounting rules can be found here.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Employee inventor compensation: an expensive pastime?

This is just a quick post on Kelly and another v GE Healthcare Ltd [2009] EWHC 181 (Pat), a Patents Court for England and Wales decision of Mr Justice Floyd on 11 February. This case has attracted some publicity (see eg here) since this is the first case in which employee inventors in the UK have been awarded compensation in respect of the outstanding benefits which their employer derived from the patent resulting from their invention.

Of note to readers of the IP Finance blog is that the hearing occupied nine days in court and that a very large proportion of the carefully-phrased judgment was given over to establishing (i) the quantum of the benefit the employer which the employer could be said to have derived from the patent and (ii) that amount that it was just that the employee inventors should receive. The judge reviewed various methodologies that might be deployed in seeking to establish the relevant quantum and explained the basis for his preferences. All in all, it was a most instructive -- if expensive -- exercise.  Part of the problem is that the financial records of trading companies do not relate, and can hardly be expected to relate, to the specific IP rights from which revenue streams or other advantages are derived. This means that the compensation exercise will always have a strongly forensic flavour about it, and it will always be likely to generate expensive and complex arguments.  It would be good to match the sums received by the employee inventors (in this case £1 million and £500,000 respectively) against the cost of bringing the case to court and establishing their entitlement to receive it.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Business models, free music and pay-for options: the Spotify site

Since the IP Finance weblog is much given to reviews of new IP commercialisation business models, or in some cases to improved and refreshed versions of existing ones, the blog is indebted to a law student, Andrew Logie who writes in to extol the potential of Spotify (www.spotify.com). Says Andrew:

"I think it really shows the future of music delivery and marks an acknowledgment by the music industry that 'free' music is not necessarily something to suppress, in fact quite the opposite.

Aside from a slick interface, the great thing about the service is that its 'free' to listen to high quality (160kbs) full albums. If you choose the free service, you will occasionally be served an advert, and by that I mean about one thirty second add in an hour of listening. I suspect that the frequency of adverts may rise as the service grows in popularity, but for now it's a fantastic trade-off bound to attract the masses.

If you want a completely ad-free service you can either take a day pass for 99p, or pay a monthly subscription of £9.99. I suspect the £9.99 is a little overpriced when you consider that the music can't be format-shifted (ie put on your iPod), a service that Napster offer for £14.99 a month, but it's certainly not beyond most budgets.

The most important thing about the service however is the sheer number of tracks available. Lots of services allow free streaming music, but very few give such free access to such a massive database of full albums. Spotify, who are based in Sweden, have managed to team up with major labels such as EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and fast growing independent 'distributors' such as CDBaby.

The success of Spotify, I believe, will accord with The Long Tail principle advanced by Chris Anderson which says that as the cost of inventory falls, the efficient inventory falls. In other words, as the cost of storage and bandwith falls, it becomes reasonably viable to have huge store collections, bigger than the world has ever seen.

Access is important. It is no longer acceptable simply to store the major albums as might a bricks and mortar store. As Lessig points out in his recent book Remix, 25% of Amazon's sales come from the the 'tail' - titles which are not available in a bricks and mortar store. A library could never be big enough and never afford to store all the world's books, just as HMV can never afford the retail space to sell all the world's music, and so on. But in the digital world people demand all the music in the world, and will come to expect is as standard.

Not only do people want all the music in the world, but they want it for free. So how does the market solve this problem? How do artists get paid?

A 2007 decision by the Copyright Tribunal (here), which concerned the Music Alliance and download services such as iTunes, set out certain minimum royalties that such services must pay. This includes 8 per cent of gross revenues from online music service providers for on-demand services including downloads and subscription streaming services, 6.5 per cent of revenues for interactive webcasting services and 5.75 per cent for non-interactive webcasting.

The framework for free stuff, at least free music, is beginning to take shape. Services such as Spotify can exist because labels are now willing to accept free streaming of their music in return for a share of advertising revenue, pay per click, or other such models.

I tend to see this as a negotiated peace deal between the music industry and the Internet. The invention and rise of file sharing advanced like an army against the traditional model of content delivery. Feeling under threat, the music and film industries declared war, and sought to crush the revolution. After a heavy exchange of blows from either side, a peace deal has been reached, the boundaries re-drawn, both sides accepting compromises. In other words, free music is here to stay, but in return we will listen to the occasional advert or pay a subscription. Free stuff is no longer necessarily a threat to the creative industries, but the revenue model has most definitely changed".
Thanks, Andrew, for this insight.

New weblog in the fashion sector

Fashionista-at-law is the name of a new weblog for the fashion industry. Driven by a multidisciplinary team of contributors, Fashionista will discusss the fashion dimension of trade marks, designer brands and other traditional IP topics. Additionally Fashionista will cover IP finance matters, viewed from the perspective of that attractive but volatile commercial sector. You can visit Fashionista at http://www.fashionistaatlaw.com/

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Latest IAM

The most recent issue of Intellectual Asset Management (issue 34, March/April 2009) tackles the following topics, among others:

* Standardising IP valuations: whether, what and how. Valuing IP is complex, with more than 50 different methods currently in use. Given the growing importance of IP to so many organisations, perhaps now is the time to re-think whether global valuation standards make sense;

* Business models, value chains and value propositions: to create maximum value from intellectual property rights, owners have to ensure that their IP management and business strategies are closely aligned;

* The reputation and intangible asset value crash of 2008. Over the last 12 to 18 months the percentage of listed company values that can be attributed to intangibles has fallen rapidly, to stand at under 50%. Serious rebuilding work is needed.
This issue comes with a complimentary copy of IP Value 2009 - An International Guide for the Boardroom. According to the publishers,
"This is the seventh edition of this comprehensive guide, and is published once again in association with NASDAQ, Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Thomson Reuters. IP Value 2009 features country-by-country analysis of key IP topics in over 50 jurisdictions from leading law firms. There is also an extensive review of the most important issues in maximising and protecting IP assets in the United States, as well as cross-border chapters and separate sections dealing with law, taxation, valuation and corporate finance".
The full text of the guide can be viewed and downloaded online here

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Open book publishing

From time to time IP Finance has looked at alternative business models for the exploitation of intellectual property rights. One such model has been enthusiastically endorsed by a Cambridge academic, William St Clair, whose new book That Greece Might Still Be Free has just been published through the medium of Open Book Publishers. As William explains,

" ... the book is published in accordance with an entirely new publishing model. It can be read FREE OF CHARGE online anywhere in the world, but is also available to be bought at a reasonable price [IP Finance note: £22.95 hardback, £11.95 paperback] as a traditional - handsome - printed book. It is published under Creative Commons with the author keeping the copyright. We now have 'proof of concept' and also - a phrase I learned recently - 'lap value.'

The book can be purchased from the website or all the usual ways through
booksellers such as Amazon.

... this is a practical counter to the situation we have reached in academic publishing of 'all rights reserved', tiny print runs, and high prices, with copies being accessible in only a handful of well endowed libraries mainly in the United States".
William's involvement goes a little deeper, as he explains:
"... my book The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period [IP Finance note: this book costs £96 from Cambridge University Press] has offered a quantified evaluation of the real world effects of various historic types of copyright regimes, especially the damaging effects of monopoly on prices, access, educational levels and so on.

At OBP we have about 20 other titles at various stages of preparation, including the volume of essays on the history of intellectual property 'Privilege and Property' that derives from the Stationers' Hall conference".
IP Finance wonders whether its readers, particularly those from non-English-speaking countries, have come across any similar types of venture and, if so, how successful they have been in (i) disseminating academic content, (ii) providing an income stream and (iii) resolving any arising copyright issues. Comments, please!

Monday, 16 February 2009

10 minutes a month -- a small price to pay

Now it's Australia's turn to introduce legislation on resale royalty rights for second and subsequent sales of original art works. This article in the Allens Arthur Robinson IP newsletter by Jim Dwyer and Marina Lloyd Jones gives a clear summary of the proposals, which are expected to turn into law by 1 July 2009. Regarding the impact of resale royalty rights in Australia the authors write:

"Some fear that the resale right will have a negative impact on the Australian art market, and that works will be resold in New Zealand, where no such right exists. However, the experience in the UK is cited to allay this concern. A 2008 study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office found no evidence that the introduction of the right had diverted business away from the UK or reduced prices. The size of the UK art market had, in fact, grown as fast (if not faster), and prices had appreciated faster, than in jurisdictions where there was no such right. Another concern relates to the administrative costs associated with compliance. The Australian Copyright Council points out that the royalty will be payable on a small number of resales and that art market professionals in the UK were found generally to take 10 minutes a month to meet their obligations under the resale royalty scheme".
The experience of the UK has been uniquely disappointing to critics of resale royalty there. Clearly the introduction of this right had about as much impact as a candle in a hurricane.  Some supporters of the right are also disappointed: in their view if it hasn't made a discernible impact on the art market the level of payments to artists, it's not doing enough to improve the position of artists and the scale of payments should be boosted accordingly.

Friday, 13 February 2009

How much is Coke worth?

Andrea Tosato, who modestly describes himself as a friend of the IP Finance blog, has witten to inform its readers as follows:

"On Tuesday Coca Cola enterprises released its financial results for Q4 2008 and reported a loss of $1.45 billion, (or $2.99 a share) due to "a $2.3 billion write-down on the value of North American franchise licenses".

The company actually had higher-than-expected quarterly profits, with regard to sales of their products; nonetheless, the enterprise swung to an overall loss, due to the impairment charge for writing down the value of its North American franchise license (sources: Reuters, Wall St Journal and MarketWatch).

I believe this is yet another signal of the great importance and value of IP assets in todays economy".

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Samsung made to pay real damages in China

Issue 8 of the Kangxin IP Journal carries a short but significant note on a recent damages award in Eastern China. The feature states:

"Samsung Electronics Co. of the Republic of Korea has been ordered to pay 50 million yuan (7.3 million U.S. dollars) to Zhejiang-based Holley Communications for infringing Holley's dual-mode cell phone patent. The rule was made by the Intermediate People's Court of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Provinces on December 20th, 2008.

Holley Communications alleged in 2007 that cell phones made by Samsung violated its patent which allowed cell phones to operate on both CDMA and GSM networks. The patent pertaining to a dual-mode CDMA/GSM mobile communication method and its communication equipment was obtained by Holley in 2002.

The 20-month patent dispute started when Holley filed the lawsuit in April 2007, calling for compensation and cease and desist action. A month later, Samsung requested that China's SIPO declare that the patent was invalid. The court opened the session in May, 2008 after SIPO declared Holley’s patent valid.

This has been the largest compensation in China's cell phone industry, but officers of Holley said they would continue to seek more compensation".
While Chinese courts have been criticised for making damages awards that hardly make it worth suing in the first place, the award here looks solid enough -- though no indication is given as to its relation to Holley's actual loss or the basis on which it claimed damages.  A cynic however might say that, with a Canadian claimant and a Korean defendant, this was a dispute the outcome of which was never likely to hit local industrial interests very hard.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

UK Woolies goes online -- but at what cost?

According to The Guardian (here), the troubled Woolworths retail brand in the United Kingdom is to be resurrected as an online store by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who specialise in buying up home delivery retail groups (the brothers' Shop Direct mail order and online retailing empire already contains Littlewoods, Kays, Marshall Ward and Great Universal) and they have presided over an increase in web sales from 18% to 56% in the past three years.

Right: assets might be fit to fleece, but how much is the Wool Worth ...?

The store group fell into administration in November with the loss of 30,000 jobs, few if any of which are expected to be saved by the deal. Neither Shop Direct nor Woolworths administrators from Deloitte would comment on the price paid. IP Finance would be surprised if the figure was high, given (i) the current economic situation, (ii) keen price competition in traditional Woolworths sectors, (iii) the lack of potential for growth outside the UK, where the Woolworths brand is alive, kicking and owned by others, and (iv) the appearance that a large proportion of loyal Woolworth shoppers were from low-income groups that were less enthusiastic about online shopping.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Book review

From Assets to Profits: Competing for IP Value & Return is the latest offering from the fertile and enthusiastic brain of Bruce Berman. Bruce -- who has both edited and contributed to this volume -- needs little introduction or explanation in his field of expertise. As CEO of Brody Berman he has acted out the three roles of guru, catalyst and midwife, having postulated new ways of transacting intellectual property, enabled others to do so too and acted out real-life transactional dramas himself. According to the publisher's blurb:

"... From Assets to Profits: Competing for IP Value and Return provides a real-world look at patents, copyrights, and trademarks, how intellectual property assets work and the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which they are used for competitive advantage. Authoritative and insightful, From Assets to Profits reveals the most relevant ways to generate return on innovation, with advice and essential guidance from battle tested IP pros".
In truth, this is an easier book to read than to put into practice. It is entirely readable, with large print, small pages and short sentences. The ideas that the authors of its individual chapters espouse are crispy expressed, resonant with common sense and richly supported with recent historical data.  No punches are pulled. There are no short cuts.  Success depends on good planning, hard work and being able to respond to a situation in which the only constant is change itself.

The problem is putting the book's excellent premises and sage advice into practice in a business world that is beset by self-doubt, crammed full with variables over which the reader has no control and -- worst still -- in which the people the reader may find himself doing battle with might also have read it.  The IP owner, the licensee, the sublicensee, financial backers and litigation lawyers on both sides all have a vested interest in the system working, but they can pull painfully in different directions where self-interest is involved.  

Bibliographic detail: ISBN: 978-0-470-22538-7. xxiv + 296 pages. Hardcover. Price £28.99/€34.70. Web page here.

Friday, 6 February 2009

The Death of Kinko's Brand

Managing brands within a conglomerate environment is a challenging task, even when the economy around you is flourishing, and even more so in times of economic turmoil. What is true of goods is even more so when speaking of branded services.

This is especially so when a company with a world-bearing service brand acquires well-known service brand and attempts to meld the two within one overarching services environment.
The fate of Kinko, after its 2004 acquisition by FedEx, as described in the January 5th issue of Business Week ("What FedEx is not Delivering", by Christopher Palmeri), is a cautionary tale of what can go wrong, culminating in the recent elimination of the Kinko brand.

For those readers who are not familiar, Kinko's is a US-based purveyor of photocopy and related services. Starting out from a college campus in California in the 1970s, it took on an iconic status with students, office workers, and just about anyone else that needed heavy-duty copying, fax, and related services. When FedEx acquired Kinko's, the chain (over 1,200 locations) had been owned for 8 years by a New York buy-out firm (Clayton, Dubilier & Rice), and already during that period there was a sense that the distinctive culture that had been synonymous with the Kinko name was deteriorating.

Kinko as heart-throb

No matter: as the legendary owner of FedEx, Frederick Smith, declared at the time of the acquisition--"FedEx and Kinko's share a similar heritage, culture, and commitment to a superior service." The vision was a seamless melding of their respective services, which would leverage both the FedEx and Kinko's brands. But it was not to be: In 2008 FedEx announced a $890 million write-off the Kinko purchase and three CEO's have tried to right the Kinko ship during the last four years.

A variety of factors for Kinko's decline were cited, starting with changes in technology that puts the printing and office services within the reach of homes and offices, effectively disintermediating the need for relying on Kinko's outlets. Quality of service also continued to be a problem, dating back to the earlier sale to the buy-out firm in the 1990's.

Beware of disintermediaries bearing gifts

And so what was the branding solution offered by FedEx? Simple, eliminate the Kinko brand. From now on, the services will be known as "FedEx Office", meaning that the iconic name Kinko's is no more. On the one hand, the adoption of FedEx Office can be viewed a vote of confidence by FedEx in its ability to turn the copying services entity around, so much so that it is willing to risk FedEx brand as being identified with these services.

But on the other hand, the decision to eliminate the Kinko brand shows just how sensitive service branding can be. First came the disruption to the Kinko culture following the purchase by the buy-out company. The brand survived, but impaired and vulnerable. Then came the attempt at merger and integration. This dual whammy proved to be more than the Kinko brand could endure. Whether FedEx Office will succeed where Kinko's did not remains very much an open question.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

WIPO makes 10 March IP money day


Good news has just reached this weblog from Geneva, where a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) press release announces that WIPO is convening a meeting to explore the use of intellectual property as a financing tool.  The text, in relevant part, reads as follows: 
"The use of intellectual property (IP) assets to raise finance – “IP financing” – will be the subject of an information meeting organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization at its Geneva headquarters on March 10, 2009.  

The ability to use IP assets – copyright, patents, trademarks, designs – as collateral, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises which depend on know-how and IP assets to bolster company value, is of growing importance. Using untapped intangible assets to secure finance is all the more crucial for companies in the current economic environment. 

Global commerce in IP assets has expanded in recent years across a range of industries. Intangible assets are estimated to account for the bulk of corporate value today. However, the financial potential of IP assets has yet to be fully realized, largely because systems of financial accounting remain primarily tailored to tangible assets. The continued growth and success of IP financing hinges on legal and regulatory support, the awareness of the banking industry and sophistication of capital markets. Unleashing the full potential of IP financing offers an opportunity to boost business growth, innovation and creativity. [in the past few months the banking industry has given the IP sector little hope that it sees IP as anything other than a commodity that can be bought, sold and licensed, with little clue as to what, for example, the effect of interposing a royalty-collecting bank creditor between a sublicensee and a licensee might have upon the business plans and the expected cash flow of the licensor. IP owners must wise up, or pack up]

The information meeting aims to raise awareness within the intellectual property community, including creators and rightholders, as well as the wider financial services community, of the opportunities and challenges of IP financing. It will examine current practices in different countries and different industries, including in the copyright, patent and trademark fields. The meeting will highlight the ways in which improvements in law and financing practices may assist right holders in maximizing the value of their IP assets. 

The meeting is open to the public and is free. Anyone interested in attending the meeting is requested to complete the on-line registration form.  [If anyone is attending and can take notes that can be posted on this blog, can they please email me here and tell me] 

Background

WIPO is cooperating with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) [at last -- thank goodness!] to ensure that the views of the IP community are taken into consideration in policy development on the issue  [some readers will remember that it was the panic and uncertainty injected into IP owners' lives by the UNCITRAL draft guidelines on secured transactions that precipitated the birth of this blog in the first place]. 

 WIPO manages a number of innovative projects to assist member states, and the IP community at large, with the commercial management of IP assets. The Organization has participated over the last five years in the deliberations at UNCITRAL in developing a Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions, [Is this really so? Repeated searches of the WIPO website during the past year, and my own personal experience, led me to fear that WIPO had simply missed this issue completely.  Can anyone verify and give details?] aimed at assisting states to modernize their secured transactions laws and enable more effective access to finance. The Guide was finalized in December 2007, and WIPO continues to participate in UNCITRAL’s drafting of an Annex to the Guide on security interests in intellectual property. 

In addition, WIPO has numerous programs aimed at raising awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises of the use of intangible assets, including IP, in accessing finance [to its credit WIPO also dedicated a large chunk of the September 2008 issue of its greatly-improved magazine to publishing a range of easy-to-read features on the subject]. The topical issue of IP valuation is also the subject of ongoing research and training programs, geared towards a better understanding of IP as an emerging asset class". 

I both hope and suspect that one meeting of this nature will be insufficient.  The financial needs and cash flows of, for example, the film industry, pharmaceuticals, telecoms and software applications are so totally different: it would be great if sectorial follow-up meetings could be organised. This can be one of WIPO's next tasks.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

WHO seeks $147bn -- can it be done for less?

An interesting piece in the excellent Intellectual Property Watch ("WHO Puts Nearly $150 Billion Price Tag On Global R&D Strategy For Neglected Diseases" by Kaitlin Mara) reports on a new document from the World Health Organization which estimates funding needs for the implementation of its strategy on global public health and intellectual property. According to this article,

"Estimated needs total more than US$2 billion for the years 2009 to 2015 in order to build capacity to innovate and to deliver health products, engage in technology transfer and in the application and management of intellectual property, promote new research and development and sustainable financing mechanisms for that R&D, and establish monitoring systems. It also budgets an additional US $147 billion for the actual cost of research, including education of researchers and infrastructure building, noting that this number is difficult to determine ahead of time".
IP Finance is curious to know whether it is possible to compare and contrast the WHO's budget for neglected diseases with the sort of business plan that the private sector might conjecture, given (i) the availability of IP protection but (ii) the existence of only a small market or one with limited purchasing power.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Trade marks in the downturn: just child's play?

The "Trade Marks and the Downturn" seminar, which is coming up on Tuesday 17 February 2009, is backed by the IPKat weblog in conjunction with Hardwicke Building. The programme runs from 11am to 3pm, with a break for lunch. 


With nearly 50 registrants already signed up, the event promises to be an exciting and stimulating one.  The speakers are Larry Cohen, IP Finance team blogger Neil Wilkof, Stephen Reese and Mark Engelman, with IP Finance team member Jeremy being a proactive and possibly provocative chairman. The cost of the entire event, for which 3 CPD points are available, is just £50 plus VAT per person. You can get the full programme and registration details here.