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Sunday, 14 October 2012

European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) 2012

Each year, the European Policy for IP conference takes place in the fall.  Your Katonomist gets very excited about this event. It's like the Woodstock for European IP economists. That is, if Janis Joplin talked about the marginal utility of Mercedes Benz and the wind cried stagflation. A touch of the hippie spirit could be found in this year's theme of IP in motion and open innovation. Of course, at EPIP, the hippies wear suits and instead of free love, we have free markets, but you get the picture.  Set in the incredibly charming Belgium city of Leuven, the conference brought together lawyers and economists from academia, industry and policy. I've picked out a couple of talks to cover here (the papers for the EPIP conference are closed, so I have linked to similar works by the same authors.)

Kevin Boudreau, from London Business School, looked at Open innovation.  He argued that appropriablity is not the main challenge of open innovation, it's just a problem to manage.   IP is more crucially about value creation, and the innovation process itself.  He pointed to an example where closed regimes (no information sharing) can create more diversity of solutions.  Essentially, where competitors are not allowed to share information or collude, we get more diversity in innovation. Where competitors can share and collude, the results of innovation are more homogenous.  He argued  IP is an essential tool in implementing alternative approaches to open innovation

Reto Hilty of Max Planck looked at the legal perspective on the open innovation and considerations for public sector environments and the cost of publishing publicly funded results.  He noted a tension between chosen openness and mandatory openness. [Merpel notes that the Katonomist did not take very good notes during this session which might reflect an economics bias ...]

 Vincent Ryckaert, IMEC, provide perspective from industry and talked about co-creation as industry- university collaboration. More than half of their patent portfolio is owned with partners and securing IP via patents is important. He noted that licensing is a key function to their innovation efforts.

During a break-out session on patent information and investors, Sheffield Phd student, Anna Hescott, presented her empirical study on biological scientists and patent information.  She asks, "To what extent do uk biological academic scientist engage with patent information?" Noting that the ideal is it through legal requirements of disclosure, Anna looked at the reality.  It wasn't a pretty picture. Scientists are generally confused by patents and don't really engage with patents. Only half of those surveyed had seen a patent, but 40% had only seen their own patent. Patent databases were a huge problem for scientists as they couldn't efficiently search.  Her test subjects also felt that patents didn't give enough information. Anna's research question the knowledge diffusion aspects of patents.

Roya Ghafele, of the University of Oxford, presented a thought piece, "tapping the crowd to improve patent quality."  She argued that using crowd sourcing for patent examination will provide more and better information and contribute to greater patent validity.  The talk prompted some debate about the outsourcing of patent examination.  Will we ever successfully have such a system?

Grid Thoma, of the University of Camerino, looked at economic value and quality of Chinese patents. He noted the rapid and accelerating growth of Chinese patenting activities and argued that Chinese technological specialisation in telcos, media, and consumer goodies depicts a broader picture of a strategic process.  Another presenter noted that 40% of trademark registrations now occur in China.

EPIP is unusual in that it is designed for both law and economics and for an audience aimed at policy makers, academics and industry practitioners. Satisfying the interests of these diverse groups is not an easy task and this year's conference perhaps favoured the academic audience.  And with that, this Kat is off to study the supply and demand of patchouli and create a macrame knitting pattern of the production possibility frontier.

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