Tuesday - 04 September 2018

An Innovation Conversation - A Q&A on Intellectual Property

From start-ups to big businesses, many ask about the changing landscape of IP, how best to develop in-house innovation and when best to seek IP advice. 

To help shed light on some IP FAQs, Partner Ilya Kazi talks innovation incentives, IP and Brexit, Chinese markets and more!


Do start-ups often consider IP right from the beginning?

A lot more now than they used to, because generally they’re keen to get investment and investors want to know what they’re investing in. Sometimes the need for IP reflects the lead times involved: if you’re in biotech you spend many years in R&D and millions of pounds before you get to a product and before you get cash positive. In crowded fields such as engineering or technology, it’s not just about protecting your IP but also about knowing what other IP is already out there that’s going to be a problem. It makes sense to look ahead in a crowded landscape and see what your IP issues are going to be. 


How accessible is IP advice to smaller companies like start-ups?

People might have a fairly basic understanding and think they need a patent or they need a trade mark, but that’s not the same as looking at the whole picture. 

You need to know if you’re about to go into a minefield and you might need to spend some money on looking at what’s out there. You might have a simple idea that’s easy to protect. Alternatively what you’re doing might be on the borderline of what is protectable.

There's a lot of other IP out there. What you need is to be able to say ‘this is my business plan, what advice do I need and what should I be looking to protect?’ 


How can companies promote and develop innovation within their own walls?

Different things work for different people — some are purely financially motivated, some people want the kudos of having their name associated with a successful innovation. I work with a lot of technology companies where people are tasked with innovation as part of their job, so they have good programmes for rewarding innovation, for example for filing patents. Some people make serious amounts of money on those schemes and it works. For smaller companies who are doing a bit of innovation on the side with most resource dedicated to core turnover, it’s harder. 


IP in China

The Chinese market is evolving. One of the things a lot of people don’t mention as much as they might is that China has a lot of cash. It owns a lot of US debt and there’s a lot of industry, private enterprise and quasi-private with government backing which has resources and a ready market, so they have a very large domestic market and the GDP is growing. IP has shifted dramatically over the last several years in both importance to Chinese companies and its enforceability in China. 


What will the impact of Brexit be on IP, generally?

"Fortunately we’re part of the European Patent Convention which is not part of the EU so that core part doesn’t change. For trade marks and designs there’ll be an extra cost on British businesses. There was a community trade mark and community design option which was very good value protection: you could register a design or trade mark in the whole of the EU for a relatively small amount of money compared to the number of countries it covered, and we’ll have to leave that. So it puts UK businesses at a slight disadvantage compared to other EU businesses but nothing major." 


To read Ilya's interview in full, please click here.

Ilya is a Partner in our London office and enjoys giving hands-on strategic advice to start-ups, growing companies and investors on IP strategy. In Legal 500 it is noted that Ilya is "a talented strategist" and "a master of his craft" (2016). Ilya is also ranked as an IP Star in the 2018 World IP Survey.