16 October 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Patent ‘irrationality’ causes a negative image of patents

Spectators are far more accepting of copyright and trademarks than they are of patents because of “irrationality”, according to Sir Robin Jacob.

Presenting the keynote speech at this year’s London IP Summit, Jacob explained that patents have faced attack in the last 25 years, with the blame resting on a populist irrationality.

He said: “I’m warning of the danger of the populist image of patents if it garners further influence.”

According to Jacobs, there was evidence of the populist image filtering downwards towards the courts. He suggested that this was a “real danger”.

Looking to Pharma and its systems, Jacob said that evidence as to why patents need to exist is clear. For example, Pharma spends a lot of money on research and development, and must make returns through patenting.

He explained that these companies are at the forefront of medical innovation.

Jacob asked: “Has any medicine in recent times come to the market without the development of a big company?”

“The fruits of research pay for the research. These are the facts,” he said.

In a separate session, panellists discussed how in-house counsel and IP attorneys can work towards shifting this pushback against patents, especially within companies that innovate.

Manny Schecter, chief patent counsel at IBM, said: “The smaller companies tend to need to go through an IP crisis before they get serious about managing and leveraging IP.”

“We need to keep communication channels open, have meetings and discuss how the IP system has benefitted the company.”

Schecter added: “As far as supporting open innovation? We do that too. We have enforced our patents, but we have also opened them to others to promote innovation and shape the direction of the industry.”

Edmond White, vice president of analytics at CPA Global, suggested apathy towards IP occurs “because IP is a legal matter, there is a complexity to it. In many cases IP functions revel that complexity and that does IP a disservice”.

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