Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Human Factor In Innovation

We’ve picked out the following points from The Global Innovation Index 2014 as being of interest to us.

1. The theme of this year’s Global Innovation Index Report concerns how to nurture the essential human factor in human innovation. That means an appreciation that creative and critical thinking, an appetite for risks and thinking entrepreneurially are important for the innovation process.

2. Educated people make good innovators, and deep technical skills are required for disruptive innovation.

3. Whilst ‘brain drain’, i.e. emigration of skilled people, is detrimental to a country, diaspora networks can be of benefit. Migrants can act as a bridge to investors and institutions with technical skills.

4. The BRICS countries have their strengths, but as yet they are not showing the ‘holistic’ improvements needed in their infrastructure which will lead to them being top innovators.

5. The US is ranked 6th in the world in according to innovation efficiency ratio, being hindered by weaknesses in tertiary education and low levels of student exchange with the rest of the world.

6. Many countries are in the process of ‘catching up’ which needs to occur through imitation and technology acquisition rather than their own R&D. However technology transfer is not simple, requiring a complex set of skills and organisational structures before it is successful. The presence of a large poorly educated population is the primary reason for poor innovative performance.

7. More recent view of innovation recognises the contribution of a wide range of disciplines, and not just science education. Good arts teaching is also important. In particular teaching methods in the visual arts are close to those that nurture skills useful for innovation.

8. The recent expansion in the Indian educational system has been impressive. However now the issue is one of ensuring the quality levels of tertiary education. In addition the humanities and social sciences have been neglected.

The report can be found here.

Our IPKat post on last year’s report can be found here.

Monday, 18 August 2014

What’s Wrong With an Academic or Rigid Approach to the Patent System?

This post is written by a practitioner who is very appreciative of the role of academics in contributing to the patent system. The purpose is to highlight though how practitioners need to approach the patent system because it is very different from a typical ‘academic’ understanding of it.

1. Patents are a very grey area. There are often good counterarguments to any position which is taken on validity or infringement issues. That means there is a tremendous level of unpredictability and risk involved when making decisions around them. Often the most likely outcome can be defined, but so often the most likely outcome does not happen, and that must be appreciated. So whilst an optimal strategy can be deduced it must be realised there is lot that cannot be catered for.

2. The patent system is changing all the time, sometimes dramatically. The Mayo, Myriad and Alice US Supreme Court cases have transformed the landscape of chemical, biotech and software patent practice in the US in ways that are still not clear. That means the practitioner needs to know the absolutes are changing and be able to plan for that as much as possible. As an example many practitioners were caught by surprise when software became patentable under European practice and their patent applications did not have basis for introducing claims to it.

3. The ‘academic’ approach looks for clear principles with which to understand something. Patent laws and decisions seemingly provide such clear principles. However what might not be appreciated is that the practical interpretation of laws and decisions can change, particularly where concepts such as novelty and inventive step are involved. In addition it can become clear that certain decisions were not correct, and will not be followed.

4. Analysing patentability is complicated, and so different people will have different approaches, coming to different conclusions. Different Examiners, Opposition Divisions and Boards of Appeal are capable of deciding the same things differently. That is part and parcel of legal systems where it is observed that many findings are reversed on appeal and so often decisions on points are not unanimous where there is more than one person who contributes to it.

5. Oral proceedings at the EPO will sometimes determine the outcome of difficult examination proceedings, and usually determine the outcome of opposition proceedings. However many factors will unduly influence that outcome, in particular how the individual attorneys performed on the day: if they are caught by surprise, misunderstand a point or misread what the Division or Board is thinking they may lose the case. That decision would reflect what happened on the day, rather than what should have happened based on case law. Parties taking part in oral proceedings should recognise this can happen, and when one is reading decisions of the Boards of Appeal to determine case law one must understand how such ‘human’ factors might have impacted the conclusion.

6. As well as dramatic changes happening in case law and practice (as mentioned in point 2 above) there are always small changes happening in patent practice. Usually practice seems to get more strict (such as claiming homologues of nucleic acids), but it can also become more lenient (such as the EPO becoming more lenient on added matter recently).

7. It is often difficult to give advice to clients, particularly on the chances of success or the scope of claims that might be gained in examination. Examiners can raise objections that were not predicted, and whether or not basis is available for the required amendments is then a matter of luck rather than justice. Whilst clients prefer more certain answers, that certainty will often not reflect the reality of the situation.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Mazzucato’s ‘Innovation as Growth Policy’

These points are taken from a recent article by Mazzucato and Perez titled ‘Innovation as Growth Policy: the challenge for Europe’.

1. The world is in a crucial time of transition as to how to direct the economy after the financial crisis of 2008. We have a polarisation of incomes, high unemployment, low growth and a fearful financial sector which is steering away from the real economy.

2. Presently private and public investment go into speculative and short-term investment. The spread of information and communications technologies (ICT) in the 1990’s and 2000’s turned into casino capitalism. That financialisation has hindered progress.

3. Banks and venture capitalists have become risk-averse wanting returns in 3 years. However major innovations take 15-20 years to develop. That means they are not investing in the ‘big waves’ of the future. Long term funding must therefore come from public institutions.

4. A deeper understanding is needed of the process of innovation so that policies can be implemented to promote it as a driver of economic growth. Innovation is not just about easy money being available. It also needs a direction for the deployment of resources, i.e. a mission-led approach to innovation is needed. ‘Green growth’ can serve as a powerful global direction for deploying the potential of the information revolution.

5. Green growth is relevant to energy sources and uses, designing products, promotion of collaborative economies and promotion of health and education.

6. The markets cannot find the green direction on their own because there is no ready-made route that will make the multiple possible directions and disparate innovations profitable. Governments must take on the required high risk R&D.

7. Present efforts to generate growth which is both smart and inclusive are not working. A major innovation effort is needed to change this and a dialogue in which innovation and employment are not seen as trade-offs.

8. Conclusions:

- public investments are needed in a mission orientated approach

- direct and indirect incentives need to be provided to promote innovation

- EU banks can be used to cure the investment crisis

- ‘green’ can be used as the key challenge and direction

- long term committed finance is required

- definancialisation of the economy is required

- regulation is needed to shift profitability to key green areas

- taxation must reward long-term investment.

You can see the report here.