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  • 1. ENGINEERINGTHE FUTUREFINANCIAL TIMES SPECIAL REPORT | Friday May 20 2011 www.ft.com/engineering­future­may2011 | twitter.com/ftreportsPatent proof of rising innovation Inside this issue European Inventor Awards The awards (SMEAsia has made strides, year. First, Italy and Spain category restated their political opposi- winnerbut progress is uneven tion to the language rules for Jens Dallin the campaign to the proposed unitary EU patent, Bentzen is pictured, above) which they said would unfairly are a riposte to those whoprotect inventions, favour English, French and Ger- regard the creation andwrites Clive Cookson man. protection of intellectual Then, more fundamentally, property as boring Page 2P atents are back in fash- the European Court of Justice ion. The World Intellec- said an essential ingredient in Award winners Fate has tual Property Organisa- the unitary system – enabling a smiled on dental innovator tion (Wipo) and the new European Patent Court Per­Ingvar Brånemark; geneEuropean and US patent offices instead of national courts to pioneer Christine Vanall reported a big increase in rule on the validity of European Broeckhoven has had toapplications in 2010, after a patents – was incompatible with fight her corner; Ashokdecline in 2009 related to the existing EU law.economic downturn, and they But Mr Battistelli refuses to Gadgil and Vikas Garud areexpect to receive another record be discouraged. “I see the glass bringing clean water to thenumber of filings this year. as half-full, not half-empty,” he world’s poorest; Ann The growth should be good says. “I am still optimistic that Lambrechts gives concretenews for the long-term future of it will be possible to introduce a makeover Page 2the global economy, given the the unitary patent by the end ofvital role that patents play in this year.” Clean techindustrial innovation – handing This could be a momentous patentsinventors the incentive to com- year in the US too. The long A new waymercialise a product or process, process of reforming the Ameri- to searchby granting a 20-year monopoly can patent system and bringing for patentsin exchange for full disclosure it more into line with the rest will helpof the invention’s technical of the world is expected to come policy­details. to fruition, with Congress makers But the increase in patent poised to pass legislation with choose the best ideasactivity is far from evenly dis- support from both political Page 3tributed around the world. No parties and the Obama adminis-one who has followed the tration. China Beijing is looking toextraordinary rise in research The Patent Reform Act of 2011 the nation to roll up itsand development spending in would simplify and streamlineAsia recently will be surprised the US system in many ways. sleeves and surpass theto learn that the most spectacu- Most importantly for interna- west on innovation Page 4lar growth in patenting is tak- tional harmonisation, it woulding place there, too. Wheels of invention: modern patents have their origins in the Italy of Leonardo da Vinci Alamy replace the current “first to US Little seems to stand in The total volume of applica- invent” rule with the “first to the way of the mosttions under the international out Renaissance Europe. An erty, which came into force in the Patent Co-operation Treaty, As Benoît Battistelli, EPO file” criterion used in the rest of significant patents overhaulPatent Co-operation Treaty rose internationally co-ordinated pat- 1884 to give protection beyond which provides a more system- president, says, “a patent holder the world. The date of filing is since 1952 Page 45.7 per cent in 2010 to reach ent system began to emerge in the country where an invention atic way to obtain international choosing to have Europe-wide far more clear-cut than the date164,300, says Wipo, but those the late 19th century. was originally patented. protection than the old Paris protection ends up with a bun- of invention, which may be hard Europeoriginating in China and India The key moment, according to Although the Paris Conven- Convention, with less duplica- dle of 40 European patents cov- to pin down when there are The EPOincreased by 55.6 per cent and Wipo, came in 1873, when for- tion still provides the bedrock of tion of effort. ering territories speaking 29 lan- competing claims. (Benoît36.6 per cent respectively. eign exhibitors refused to attend cross-border protection and Meanwhile, also in the 1970s, guages and subject to 40 court However, even without big Battistelli, Indeed, Asia became the big- the International Exhibition of mutual recognition of patents, it Europe took a big step towards jurisdictions . . . It is much more set-piece advances such as the president,gest filing region for the first Inventions in Vienna because has been supplemented over the regional unification of patents difficult and costly for European US reform legislation, technical right) hastime, followed by North Amer- they were afraid their ideas past century by several other through the creation of the entities to protect their innova- progress to harmonise the inter- linked withica and then Europe. would be stolen and exploited international agreements. European Patent Office in tions in their home market than national patent system and Google to Historians place the origins of commercially in other countries. Most important was the estab- Munich. But the dreams of the for their main competitors.” make life easier for inventors is iron out translation issuesmodern patents in 15th-century Subsequent negotiations led lishment in the 1970s of Wipo EPO’s founders that this would The long drive to introduce a going well. Page 4Italy, and patent laws in some to the Paris Convention for the under the auspices of the United lead to a single European patent single European Union patentform were introduced through- Protection of Industrial Prop- Natioins in Geneva, followed by remain tantalisingly unfulfilled. suffered two new setbacks this Continued on Page 3
  • 2. 2 ★ FINANCIAL TIMES FRIDAY MAY 20 2011Engineering the Future | European Inventor AwardsDevelopments that make a difference Jens Dall Bentzen won theBackground SME category of this year’s awards for his biomassClive Cookson sets the furnacesscene as this year’s five countries), including 18 EPO patents.winners are announced Nobel Biocare, the implant company founded on Mr Brånemark’s work, had revenues of €576m and pre-taxT he European Inventor Awards profits of €100m last year. Though his are a very visible riposte to original patents have long expired, it those who regard the creation still holds an estimated 21 per cent of and protection of intellectual the growing global market for dentalproperty as a boring, specialist activ- implants and is regarded as a technol-ity of little interest to the general pub- ogy leader. The whole field of tita-lic. nium implants has around 100 patent Established by the European Patent applications per year.Office in 2006, they aim to “give a Although inventing and patentingface” to patents by honouring individ- have traditionally been seen as maleual innovators with a prestigious activities, the female presence isprize, while raising awareness of the growing. This year two of the fiverole of patents in promoting eco- award winners are women, both coin-nomic, social and technological cidentally from Belgium.progress. Ann Lambrechts of Bekaert, the The 15 finalists and five winners Belgian building materials company,this year highlight a range of appeal- took the industry prize. She has givening developments that have made a a new look to the urban landscapedifference to the lives of people with her Dramix steel fibres, whicharound the world – and in the process increase the tensile strength of con-made money for their inventors. crete. This enables architects to The winning innovations, design spectacular new structures,announced in Budapest, Hungary, such as the CCTV headquarters inyesterday involve strengthening con- Beijing, which would not have beencrete (in the industry category), burn- possible with the previous generationing biofuels (SMEs), identifying Alzhe- of steel-reinforced concrete.imer’s genes (research), implanting Christine Van Broeckhoven of theteeth (lifetime achievement) and dis- Flanders Institute for Biotechnologyinfecting water (non-European). Four is a pioneer of research into the genesare profiled in separate articles below. and proteins that cause Alzheimer’s The awards attracted 170 entries disease, with 12 patents dating backthis year, proposed both by members to 1991. “We had lots of discussions onof the public and by specialist patent the relevance of patenting, who ownsexaminers at the EPO and national ents, typically filed between five and burn biomass containing up to 60 per As the Technopolis analysis points Most other shortlisted and winning it, whether it would be for the benefitpatent offices. These were whittled 15 years ago, so that a long enough cent moisture, without having to dry out, Mr Bentzen stands out in the inventors have broadly similar tales of society,” she recalls, “but in thedown on the basis of legal and techni- period has elapsed to judge their com- it out first. biomass furnace industry, where the to tell, even if they work in quite end, patents are the vehicle whichcal criteria to a longlist of 30 entries mercial potential. Having run a successful 2MW pilot level of patenting and innovation is different industries – though of course attracts money.”that was put to a high-profile interna- For example, Jens Dall Bentzen, the plant, Mr Bentzen’s company Dall generally low. He gives several rea- those in the lifetime achievement cat- Alzheimer’s is so complex that theretional jury headed by Jerzy Buzek, Danish engineer who won the SME Energy has completed this month an sons for patenting. Besides the univer- egory have a much longer record. are still no drugs or even diagnosticpresident of the European Parliament category of this year’s awards, has 8MW plant to demonstrate the tech- sal function of patents in protecting Per-Ingvar Brånemark, the winner, tests on the market for the degenera-and former prime minister of Poland. applied since 2000 for five patents for nology on a commercial scale, for inventions and keeping competitors at filed his first patent for titanium- tive brain disease – but when they do The selection process included a biomass furnaces that greatly extend Bogense District Heating Company on a distance, they are a valuable part of based dental implants in 1968, nine emerge, Dr Van Broeckhoven’sthorough economic analysis of each the range of fuels that can be burnt, the island of Funen, Denmark. Market a branding strategy, to indicate an years before EPO came into existence. research is likely to play a role inproposal by Technopolis, a European while reducing associated pollution analysis suggests a total demand in innovative business to potential cus- Since then he has generated 57 patent their commercialisation. In biomedi-research consultancy. Most of the and increasing energy efficiency. Europe for 275 such plants per year, tomers, and they help persuade inves- “families” (patents based on the same cine, patents can take a very longentries rely on small groups of pat- In particular his power plant can with a total value of €370m. tors to fund a new company. invention but applied for in different time to make an impact.Bringing clean water to the world’s poorest people Concrete gets aNon­European awardAshok Gadgil colleague in India – a low-cost device that destroys infectious agents in water that cause cholera, typhoid, gastroenteritis organism non-viable. “It’s like a jammed zipper,” explains Mr Gadgil. “DNA has two strands and [these] have to Its low energy consumption means that, with the aid of a car battery or solar panel, it is suitable for communities teased me, calling it a stainless steel coffin, because it was about that size,” he says. When the team tested it in wiry makeover and dysentery. be unzipped for replication. If without access to grid power. Uttar Pradesh, India, theWhat Ashok Gadgil learnt Water purification was not they get jammed, the And compared with feedback was that people constructed using Mswhen working on a low-cost originally Mr Gadgil’s area of organisms can’t multiply and traditional purification wanted something much Industry Lambrechts’ steel wirewater purification device is expertise, although he had so are unable to cause disease.” methods, the system uses a smaller, lighter, more compact Ann Lambrechts elements.that successful innovation is been gathering data about use Ultraviolet light purification tiny amount of energy. “When and cheaper. “That was one of The building was made fromabout more than science and of light for disinfection for systems did exist. However, you boil water, you have to the lessons for me,” says Dr six horizontal and verticaltechnology – particularly when some years. Then in 1993, a these were expensive because raise the temperature of all the Gadgil. “You have to pay For the most used man-made sections that form a continuousdesigning products for some of disastrous cholera epidemic they required complex pumping water and most of the attention to what users want.” product on earth, concrete loop covering 473,000 sq m ofthe world’s poorest people. broke out in India and spread systems and, since they were molecules are harmless,” says The device now weighs just commands a low profile among floor space. The structure, which “It requires going outside to Bangladesh and Thailand. used underwater, needed Mr Gadgil. “Here, you use 15lb and, after WaterHealth the world’s inventive elite. locals have said resembles ayour comfort zone and area of “Some 10,000 people died in one frequent cleaning. extremely small amounts of International licensed the Discovering innovative large pair of boxer shorts, wasexpertise, and takes a lot of month,” he says. “So this Instead Dr Gadgil and Dr energy because all you’re technology, Dr Gadgil and Dr solutions on how to improve possible only because of thecollaboration,” says Mr Gadgil, caused me to take note.” Garud designed a lamp that is destroying is the DNA.” Garud helped the India-based the grey building material high tensile strength that Msdirector of the environmental The purification technique he placed above water tanks. The However, Dr Gadgil admits company refine the product for lacks the allure of medical Lambrechts’ steel elements gaveenergy technologies division at developed works in a way that system uses gravity and he made mistakes before use in developing countries. science or the possible riches of the concrete.the Lawrence Berkeley is relatively simple. Ultraviolet hydraulics to generate a getting the technology right. By 2010, the systems were technology. It sits, instead, in However, as well as enablingNational Laboratory, California. light of a particular wavelength pump-free flow of water, Initially, for example, the units bringing affordable clean water the pantheon of essential but high-profile buildings, the steel Mr Gadgil, who also teaches transmits easily though water making it extremely energy- were extremely large, made of to more than 2m people in unglamorous everyday wires have also become aat University of California, and is readily absorbed by efficient – a 40W ultraviolet stainless steel and designed to more than 10 countries. products. feature of mass-marketBerkeley, has developed – with DNA. In the process, the DNA light bulb can disinfect handle a flow of up to 50 litres “Concrete is everywhere and concrete use.the help of Vikas Garud, a is modified, making the 1,000 litres of water per hour. per minute. “My colleague Sarah Murray we are talking about “You need to develop a reinforcing it in a more market gradually but now the efficient way,” says Ann steel fibres are used in one inFate smiled on Lambrechts, a nominee for this year’s Engineering the Future awards. Ms Lambrechts’ innovative every three concrete floors in Europe,” Ms Lambrechts says. When she first came up with the idea for the hooked anddental innovator steel fibres are used to boost the tensile strength of concrete structures and are, pound for pound, 32 per cent stronger flattened wires in 1998, Ms Lambrechts and her team at Bekaert, the Belgian building materials group, used X-ray than the traditional machines to observe how the His scientific discoveries construction method of using wires and concrete reactedLifetime achievement were commercialised by a steel mesh or reinforcing bars, under different stresses.Per­Ingvar company called Nobelpharma, or rebars. Ms Lambrechts adds that the now Nobel Biocare, which The pieces of wire, 55mm in idea of using fibres to giveBrånemark today commands about 35 per length, are slightly hooked at added strength to a wet cent of the global dental Clockwise from left: the ends and flattened in the building material can be tracedMillions of patients around the implant market. Per­Ingvar Brånemark middle. The unusual shape back as far as the 19th century,world have benefited from the Mr Brånemark has spent the (Lifetime achievement); means that when the concrete when builders began usingscientific breakthroughs made past three decades working Christine Van Broeckhoven sets it is anchored to each horsehair to strengthen plaster.by Per-Ingvar Brånemark, the with surgeons in more than 100 (Research); Ann Lambrechts individual piece of wire, The move to use smallerSwedish orthopaedic surgeon. hospitals around the world (Industry) and Ashok Gadgil strengthening the core and wires in the concrete mix, Yet his innovations in the promoting his techniques. (Non­European countries) giving more resistance to rather that mesh and rebars,field of dental implants and Now 82, he is no longer as movement than rebars or has also improved on-siteprosthetic technology might active in the surgery room but mesh. safety for builders.never have happened without a continues developing his ideas, This change in design has The wires can be poured intotwist of fate when applying for together with his son, Rickard, opened up possibilities for the wet concrete and the mixuniversity. who is focused on advancing using concrete in a new kind of is then sprayed by robots into Mr Brånemark put his name the use of titanium fixtures in architecture, where large-scale foundation piles, tunnel wallsforward for undergraduate prosthetic arms and legs. buildings with intricate designs and floors.courses in medicine and Mr Brånemark highlights the can be fashioned from the rigid In dismantling old buildings,engineering with no clear idea case of a Finnish student who material, where in the past the wires are also easier towhich field he would rather had two artificial limbs fused steel, or another easy-to- salvage from crushed concretepursue. into her femur bones after manipulate material, would be than meshes and reinforcing The medical school at Lund losing her legs in a collision used. China Central bars.University was first to respond with a tram. The technology Television’s headquarters, thewith a firm offer and that was has allowed her to resume an 44-storey, 234m skyscraper, was Ed Hammondenough for Mr Brånemark to almost normal life and to feelcommit his future to medical some of the sensations ofscience. “If the engineeringdepartment had been quicker Iwould probably have become walking – such as the different feelings of a soft carpet and a hard floor. Gene pioneer who had to fight corner for her sexan engineer,” he says. Looking back over his career, Instead, Mr Brånemark went Mr Brånemark says his most Ms Van Broeckhoven, patients with Down’s syndrome run a very family-friendly before could they understandon to become a pioneer in the important quality has been Research director of the department of and Alzheimer’s, she focused environment with a lot of and estimate the benefits.”development of titanium patience. It took 10 years from Christine Van molecular genetics at the on chromosome 21, identifying flexibility.” Ms Van Broeckhovenimplants that can be the first use of his technique University of Antwerp, part of a mutation causing proteins to She was briefly a member of recognises the importance ofpermanently anchored in on a human dental patient in Broeckhoven VIB, the Flanders-based life aggregate in the brain tissue; the Belgian parliament, patents to incentivise corporatehuman bone – overcoming the 1965 to build enough evidence sciences research institution, and then highlighting the agreeing so that she could research, while stressing thebody’s usual rejection of to publish his findings. studied for a doctorate in importance of progranulin as a work on “the greying of importance of limitingforeign objects. One of the biggest challenges, Christine Van Broeckhoven has molecular biology. She was common gene causing society”, drawing up a commercial secrecy to His work has paved the way he says, has been persuading dabbled in business and initially interested in metabolic neurodegeneration. dementia plan. Having stimulate academics to co-for dental implants to replace surgeons to ditch what he calls politics, but always for short diseases, but breakthroughs in Looking back on her career, achieved her policy and learnt operate fully. She remainsdamaged teeth – transforming the aggressive “saw bone” style periods in the service of her the early 1980s in genetics and during which she has how to lobby ministers – “you cautious on the rapidthe lives of patients who would of some orthopaedic surgeons long-term passion and greatest the link with neurology accumulated awards including have to give them something emergence of Alzheimer’spreviously have required in favour of a more sensitive contribution: scientific motivated her to switch tack. the American Academy of they can use directly for their drugs, with recent clinical-trialremovable dentures – and a approach to bone tissue. research. “It was a pioneering time,” Neurology’s Potamkin Prize, own benefit to be re-elected” – disappointments.range of bone-anchored But his main advice applies A pioneer in genetics, she she recalls. “Instruments were she recognises the challenge she returned to research. “You can feel companies areprosthetic applications. equally to all medical has received a number of becoming available to for women in science. “It was She has also worked for two reducing their investments,” “I started looking into micro scientists: never lose sight of European patents for her work manipulate DNA in a test tube, considered a male thing. I was pharmaceutical companies over she says. “There is a feeling –circulation in bone tissue and how much is still not on neurodegenerative brain and work began on examining protected in the beginning the years, with mixed feelings. not completely incorrect – thatbone marrow to understand understood about the human diseases including Alzheimer’s, genetic markers in humans. because I didn’t realise that. I “I was surprised that the neurodegenerative processwhat happens inside a bone body. “We should never start some of which have been taken People then were convinced wanted to study, and was everything went so slowly, is too complicated for us towhen you drill into it,” he believing we know better than up by pharmaceutical that senility was just due to supported by my parents. with so much bureaucracy. It understand. There is notrecalls. “My feeling was that mother nature,” he says. “We companies seeking to develop the ageing process. There was “Only later when I was was a bit of a disappointment, enough investment in trying toyou have to treat bone not as a need to have some humility.” innovative medicines in an no belief in Alzheimer’s as a confronted by science policy although it was a pioneering understand a normal brain.”piece of wood but as a living important but frustratingly disease.” did I realise that I had to fight. time in genetics whenpart of the human being.” Andrew Ward slow-moving field. Studying parallels between But I’m a very good fighter. I companies were investing Andrew Jack
  • 3. FINANCIAL TIMES FRIDAY MAY 20 2011 ★ † 3 Engineering the FutureInformation helpsclear the air onrenewables policy what are the technologies signing of the Kyoto proto-Clean technologies that are patented within col in 1997, there was a this context?” surge of patenting of renew-Patent classification Until the launch of the able energy inventions.will help politicians classification, such ques- “The political decisions thatmake right choices, tions were impossible to answer. “Part of the prob- create frameworks that ena- ble long-term investmentsays Sarah Murray lem was that, as these pat- make a huge difference,” ents were recorded, they says Mr Karachalios. weren’t tagged in terminol- Governments have cer- Turning power: after the signing of the Kyoto protocol in 1997, there was a surge in renewable energy patents Charlie BibbyB y 2050, renewables ogy that was relevant from tainly recognised the impor- could meet almost a clean-energy perspective,” tance of supporting the pat- but where governments researching into clean tech little resistance to licensing. entific capacity to develop be bottlenecks, where they 80 per cent of glo- explains Benjamin Sim- ent filing process. As part of have got into difficulty is in and lots of patents are Some 70 per cent of the technologies. could export technologies,” bal energy demand, mons, head of the trade, the US government’s stimu- which [clean technologies] being granted,” he says. respondents said they Mr Karachalios argues he says.if supported by appropriate policy and planning unit in lus package, for example, to back and whether any of “But the big issue is how to would be prepared to be that, without readily availa- “All these questions arepublic policies, said the the economics and trade the commerce department’s them lead to actual pay- get the flow of capital to more flexible when licens- ble, searchable information, very important.”Intergovernmental Panel on branch of the UN Environ- patent and trademark office back,” says Jonathan take those ideas to proto- ing to developing countries policymakers cannot make And while the new classi-Climate Change in a report ment Programme (UNEP). introduced a pilot pro- Johns, director of Climate type, then to demonstration with limited ability to pay decisions on where to fication means it is nowreleased last month. Traditionally, says Mr gramme to accelerate the Change Matters, a UK-based and then to commercialisa- high prices. invest to address these bar- easier to identify clean-tech To design those policies, Simmons, tracking down all review of “green” technol- consultancy. tion.” Yet the report found that riers. patents, this does not meanhowever, policymakers the patents filed for a par- ogy patent applications. Mr Johns argues that the A further issue, particu- willingness to out-license “Governments need to it is possible to tell which ofneed access to relevant ticular technology in the And in the UK, the govern- filing of patents is only one larly for developing coun- was not reflected in actual know worldwide who is those patents have beeninformation on clean tech- clean-tech field would have ment recently introduced a part of the process of pro- tries, is how easy it is to volumes of licensing. Other developing these technolo- developed and are makingnology innovations. The taken a specialised lawyer preferential rate on income moting technologies that obtain licences for new barriers emerged, such as gies, what national entities it to market. This, says Mrlaunch of a new classifica- six to nine months. “Now from patents. contribute to a low-carbon technologies and how much transaction costs, the diffi- are developing these tech- Simmons, is the next steption scheme for clean-tech someone can conduct the “There are various poli- economy. “Yes, a lot of uni- they cost. The report found culty of identifying a suita- nologies, where are the cor- in filling the informationpatents therefore represents search in a matter of min- cies that governments use versities in the west are that there was surprisingly ble partner and lack of sci- porations, where there may gap.a big step forward. utes,” he says. Until the launch of the The database was devel-classification scheme – oped as part of a jointwhich facilitates online research project conductedsearches of patents data- by the EPO, the UNEP andbases – global climate the International Centre forchange debates were ham- Trade and Sustainablepered by a serious obstacle: Development. It resulted inthe inability to distinguish the report “Patents andclean-tech innovations from clean energy: bridging thethe millions of patents gap between evidence andbeing filed every year. policy”. “For us the question was With intellectual propertywhether it would be possi- rights recently emerging asble to produce data to a particularly contentiousinform the political negotia- issue in climate changetion process so we can con- debates (some countriescentrate on the real prob- argue that related technolo-lems,” says Konstantinos gies should be royalty-freeKarachalios, public policy since they are in the publicspecialist at the European good), the report set out toPatents Office and leader of look at the role of patentsthe EPO’s work on the data- in the transfer of climatebase. “If you talk about change mitigation technolo-smart grids, for instance, gies.what is a smart grid? And It found that after thePatent proof ofrising innovationContinued from Page 1 input, rather than the out- put.” For example the so-called The real value of patentsIP5 group – representing lies in the extent to which athe European, US, Japa- company can commercialisenese, Chinese and Korean them to develop new busi-intellectual property offices, ness. At worst, Mr Zentnerwhich handle 90 per cent of says, “patenting can be athe world’s patents – is run- time-wasting distractionning 10 projects to reconcile and a hurdle to businesstheir procedures, from the success.”way patents are classified Sometimes a companyto the format required for sees trade secrecy as anapplications. alternative to patenting. All this is likely to drive But Mr Battistelli says thisfurther increases in patent- may be misguided. “It is asing. But, as Mr Battistelli complicated to organisesays, an efficient and grow- secrecy as to apply for aing patent system “is not a patent,” he says. “In fact, itgoal in itself, it is an eco- can be more difficult tonomic tool to promote inno- enforce secrecy rightvation”. That requires pat- through the company, its suppliers and contacts, than Intellectual to patent.” property is a Ideological opposition to means to an the patent system seems to end: business be declining, although growth, says many people still believe Larry Zentner the scope of patents is too broad. The most conten- tious area is in the life sci-ent offices to do more work ences, as to whether biolog-disseminating the techno- ical constructs such aslogical information con- genes, life forms and stemtained in applications. cells can be patented. In Equally, for the inventor, general, Europe has taken aobtaining a patent is just more restrictive line onthe start of the exploitation such questions than the US.process. Patents are some- For Mr Battistelli, how-times treated by analysts of ever, the most importantthe innovation process as issue is “patent quality” –an “output” of research and making sure that patentsdevelopment spending – the meet all the legal criteria,industrial equivalent of the such as inventiveness,scientific papers and cita- before they are granted.tions produced by academic Only 42 per cent of appli-researchers. cants to EPO end up with “Intellectual property is a valid patents (and in bio-means to an end: business technology the grantinggrowth,” says Larry Zent- rate is just 28 per cent).ner, founding director of If the world’s patentInzenka, the UK-based man- offices can ensure quality,agement consultancy. growth in activity is almost “In other words, it is an guaranteed. Contributors Clive Cookson Nikki Tait Science Editor Brussels Correspondent David Gelles Andrew Ward US Media and Marketing Nordic Bureau Chief Correspondent Sarah Murray Ed Hammond FT Contributor UK Companies Reporter Andrew Baxter Commissioning Editor Kathrin Hille Steven Bird Beijing Correspondent Designer Andy Mears Andrew Jack Picture Editor Pharmaceuticals Correspondent For advertising, contact: Liam Sweeney James Politi Phone +44 020 7873 4148, US Economic and Trade Correspondent e­mail liam.sweeney@ft.com
  • 4. 4 ★ FINANCIAL TIMES FRIDAY MAY 20 2011Engineering the FutureBeijing looks to nation to roll up sleeves and surpass west become one of the most con- nation to roll up its sleeves appeared in the rail sector, first in a country as ence of foreign-controlled new technical solutions developing countries,” saysChina tentious issues in Beijing’s and complete the mission of in nuclear power plants, the opposed to those that have manufacturing in China that have to do with the Zheng Liang, a research fel- international trade rela- catching up and even sur- wind turbine sector and been filed elsewhere before explains this. structure or external low of the China instituteArm­twisting of tions. A wide-ranging policy passing the west in science commercial aviation. – are normally a good indi- However, the picture is appearance of a product. for Science and Technologyforeign companies programme with the catch- phrase “indigenous innova- and technology that began 200 years ago, when foreign- But the controversy over these arm-twisting tech- cator for the strength of domestic innovation activ- changing. China was the only leading patent applica- Different from invention patents, these patents will Policy, in a recent paper. There are also signs thatmasks big push for tion” was launched in 2006, ers with modern weaponry niques has sometimes over- ity because local companies tion region that saw the not be scrutinised very the quality problems mightinnovation, says and with it Beijing intends to catapult the country, and transportation technol- ogy came calling”. shadowed the fact that China has been going in tend to file in their home market first. proportion of basic patents rise, from 32.7 per cent in closely, and filing fees are much lower. be receding. Until 2008, the majority of utility models inKathrin Hille long seen as just a base for One way the Chinese gov- leaps and bounds to becom- 2003 to 43.3 per cent in 2009, “This has greatly China were registered by low-cost manufacturing, ernment has tried is making ing an innovator: at least The ratio of says Thomson Reuters. impacted the quality of pat- individuals, seen as a signal into a new era. ownership of local patents that is what the numbers invention Not all the growth, how- ents filed in China today,” of lower technology con-When Chinese and US offi- If Beijing’s vision comes and brands a precondition say. patents in ever, is a direct result of says a European Commis- tent. But that has sincecials met for their twice- true, the economy will be for access to public con- China became the fourth- China is increased innovation. In sion official specialising in changed, with companiesa-year Strategic and Eco- driven by technology-inten- tracts, triggering an outcry largest filer of patents at rising, says line with Beijing’s aggres- Chinese patenting trends. accounting for 60 per centnomic Dialogue in Washing- sive industries, and Chinese from foreign rivals against the World Intellectual Prop- Chen Jihong sive “indigenous innova- But in the development of of utility model applicationston last week, innovation companies will receive, protectionism. erty Office last year. More tion” plans, many local gov- China’s innovation culture, last year.was high on the agenda. rather than pay, patent and The government is also than 1.2m patents were filed ernments have been offer- utility models have their “Up to five years ago, youUnder pressure from US trademark royalties. pressing foreign companies in China last year, ahead of In China, basic patents ing to pay companies’ pat- rightful place, local experts would have a lot of ‘rubbishbusinesses, Beijing had to In a report for the US to set up joint ventures Japan and second only to accounted for an average 38 ent registration fees, say. “Typically, the adop- patents’ filed in China, butpromise it would no longer Chamber of Commerce pub- with local, often state- the US, which it is forecast per cent of total patents greatly lowering the thresh- tion of ‘petty patents’ such now the ratio of inventionallow policies on innovation lished last year, James owned, enterprises. Under to overtake this year. Since between 2003 and 2009, a old for filing. as utility models and patents is rising, and theto discriminate against for- McGregor of Apco World- this scheme they must 2005, China has been sur- much smaller ratio than the An additional incentive designs is mainly based on extent of innovation iseign companies. wide, the lobbying firm, share or release proprietary passing Europe and South 52 per cent seen in Japan or for more patents comes the intention to encourage increasing too,” says Chen The way China treats called Beijing’s plans “an technology as a precondi- Korea with the numbers of the 46 per cent seen in the from China’s patent system: gradual innovation, which Jihong, an intellectual prop-intellectual property rights all-hands-on-deck call to tion for wider market patents filed. US and South Korea. Patent It allows for registration of is often very important for erty lawyer at Zhong Lunand their creation has action for the Chinese access – a pattern that has Basic patents – those filed experts say the strong pres- utility models, patents for the domestic applicants in law firm.Officials Capitol Hill shows unitypush ahead on innovationon single US patent reform Law to change to change the way the PTO, which is under umbrella of the commerce theEU regime department, would be ‘first­inventor­to­ funded, turning it into a more independent agency. file’ system, writes In a blog in March, David James Politi Kappos, director of patent office and undersecretary of commerce for intellectual “In the absence of a single well- With political tensions run- property, said the legisla-European patents respected court, businesses might ning high between Republi- tion would allow it to set its find that their patent protection cans and Democrats in fees and be essentially self-Language poses hurdle had been invalidated by a recent months, particularly funded.to bloc­wide reform, national court with almost no on fiscal and budgetary pol- “By providing our agency experience of patents. Will they icy, few pieces of legislation with adequate resources,writes Nikki Tait therefore be willing to risk all the have managed to make delays will be minimised their investment in Europe their way through the US and high-quality examina-T op European Union offi- depending on such a decision?” Congress with bipartisan tions will be completed in a cials were subdued last But these obstacles notwith- support. shorter amount of time,” month when they finally standing, EU officials are still But there is one notable Mr Kappos said. “This will unveiled the draft rules pushing ahead with the creation exception: a new patent help to clear the patentthat will create a single EU patent. of the single EU patent. The draft reform bill that represents – backlog and allow innova- At face value, this should have rules could be formally approved according to some – the tors to move ideas to thebeen a cause for celebration. The during 2011 and will allow busi- most significant overhaul of marketplace more quickly.”idea that companies or inventors nesses and inventors to apply at the way inventions and A third main element ofshould, in one fell swoop, be able the European Patent Office for inventors are treated in the the proposal would allowto get patent protection across unitary patent protection cover- US since 1952. third parties to submit evi-Europe, rather than apply for ing at least 25 countries. In March, the US Senate dence – known as “priorsuch protection in each country Under the new system, patent approved by an overwhelm- art” – as an application isseparately, has been a goal for applications can be made in any ing 95 to 5 margin the being processed, which pro-decades. It would mean substan- language. However, the EPO will America Invents Act, and ponents argue will help pre-tial cost savings for companies continue to focus on its three the House of Representa- vent bad patents from beinglarge and small, and could help to existing official languages of Eng- tives judiciary committee awarded. In addition, thebolster innovation in the EU bloc. lish, French and German. last month advanced a simi- new law expands the sys- But there are problems. On the So if an application is made in a lar bill, also with a near- tem for challenging a pat-one hand, Italy and Spain are non-official language – Estonian, unanimous vote. ent’s solidity within the pat-opposed to the latest proposals, say – a translation will have to be Now, little appears to ent office without resortingclaiming that the proposed lan- done into one of the official lan- stand in the way of it being to going to court.guage regime for the new EU pat- guages, although the cost will be agreed by the full House, Given the broad biparti-ent unfairly focuses on English, compensated. Once the patent is Michel Barnier: aim is to make innovation cheaper and easier AFP and being enacted into law san support that developedFrench and German. This means granted, its core claims will then by President Barack Obama in support of the bill, it isthat the legislation is being intro- have to be translated into the each country where the patent taged if they have the added cost ble for non-official language coun- – who supports the bill – not surprising that the larg-duced via a cumbersome Brussels other two official languages. has been validated). of having to seek separate protec- tries. They are confident that all this year. est companies in Siliconprocedure known as “enhanced For a transitional period of up By contrast, a patent covering tion in their domestic market as the requirements of the enhanced Patrick Leahy, the Demo- Valley and the US technol-co-operation”, and the single EU to 12 years, EU patents granted in all the US costs about €1,850 on well as protection elsewhere in co-operation procedure have been cratic Vermont senator and ogy industry have beenpatent is likely to cover only 25 of French or German will need to be average. the EU through the new EU pat- complied with. chairman of the Senate backing the legislation andthe 27 EU countries. translated into English, and ones “The purpose of unitary patent ent. Their bigger legal headache is judiciary committee and are satisfied with the On the other, there is the poten- granted in English will also need protection is to make innovation But Spanish disquiet over the the European Court of Justice’s one of the architects of the changes. “On the scale of 1tially bigger problem of a ruling to be translated into another offi- cheaper and easier for businesses proposed language and translation March ruling on the proposed pat- legislation, has not hesi- to 10, in terms of impor-from the European Union’s top cial EPO language. But officials and inventors everywhere in arrangements appears to be deep- ent litigation reform. In this, the tated to make grand state- tance, this is an 11,” sayscourt, which earlier this year sty- hope that high-quality machine Europe,” says Michel Barnier, EU rooted. In Brussels, its diplomats Luxembourg-based ECJ clearly ments about its importance,mied moves to create a more uni- translations (see article below) will internal market commissioner. “It have threatened to bring a legal stated that the creation of a Euro- saying it would keep the US Patrickfied litigation system for hearing steadily take over from the costly challenge in the EU courts against pean and Community Patent at the “pinnacle of innova- Leahy: reformand ruling on patent disputes in manual work. (Last year more the use of the “enhanced co-opera- Court was not compatible with tion”. will keep theEurope. than 60 per cent of all patent fil- EU officials privately tion” procedure – which is EU law – partly because, if the “American ingenuity and US at the Without that, holders of a single ings from businesses in the EU hope Italy, at least, may designed to allow a group of mem- court erred, there would be no innovation have been a cor- ‘pinnacle ofEU patent could be exposed to came from the UK, France or Ger- ber states to proceed with certain way of putting this right. In short, nerstone of the American innovation’separate country-by-country liti- many – with the last leading the eventually join the new measures even if all 27 do not join its creation would “alter the economy from the timegation in all the national jurisdic-tions the new IP right covers. field by a large margin.) All this, officials estimate, proposed arrangements in. Spain argues that, if the sole essential character of the powers conferred on the institutions of Thomas Jefferson examined the first patent to today,” Dean Garfield, president of So until this is sorted out, many should mean that the new EU pat- objective is cost savings, a regime the EU and the member states, Mr Leahy said in March, as the Information Technologylawyers think the commercial ents will be available for less than is my deeply held conviction there based on English alone would be which are indispensable to the the bill was nearing its final Industry Council, whichappeal of the single EU patent €2,500 ($3,570), and eventually – as is no sustainable economic more appropriate. But if other preservation of the very nature of Senate vote. represents the sector’swill be limited. manual translation work dimin- growth without innovation – languages are to be included, EU law”. “If we are to maintain our giants, from Microsoft, “The introduction of a Euro- ishes – for well under €1,000. and no innovation without effi- Spanish – which, officials point Back in Brussels, EU officials, position at the forefront of Google and Cisco to Oracle,pean patents court is seen by That compares with about cient intellectual property protec- out, counts several hundred mil- determined to make the new sin- the world’s economy, if we Ebay and Hewlett-Packard.many as an essential ingredient €32,000 at present if an inventor tion.” lion speakers worldwide – should gle EU patent a practical reality are to continue to lead the “An issue that has beento the introduction of a unitary wants a basket of national patents EU officials privately hope Italy, be included. as well as a legal one, insist they globe in innovation and pro- lingering will now beEuropean patent,” says Alasdair covering all 27 EU countries, of at least, may eventually join the EU officials, in reply, stress that are actively looking at ways duction, if we are to con- resolved … so we can focusPoore, president of the Chartered which €23,000 comes from the nec- new proposed arrangements. every effort has been made to per- round this fundamental constitu- tinue to enjoy the fruits of on inventing,” Mr GarfieldInstitute of Patent Attorneys and essary translation costs alone. It is, after all, a country with a suade Spain and Italy to join, and tional problem. But coming up the most creative citizens, adds. “The last thing youpartner at the Mills & Reeve law (On top of this, there is also the significant industrial base, and that adjustments were introduced with a solution may take some then we must have a patent want is for the patent sys-firm. burden of annual renewal fees in firms there could be disadvan- to make the regime more palata- time. system that produces high- tem to be creating a time quality patents, that limits delay between an idea and counter-productive litiga- improving people’s lives.” tion over those patents, and And yet the bill still has Lost in translation Tie­up with Google offers hope for cheaper patent filing that makes the entire sys- some opponents, and the tem more streamlined and primary objection has been While the pan­European patent offers myriad So, for example, if a Romanian inventor to file a patent application in Spanish, I have available,” says Benoît Battistelli, the EPO’s efficient,” he added. that the reform could dam- benefits for those who win protection, it may hopes to patent a new type of ballpoint pen to search abstracts in English, or search in president. “The new translation tool is a One of the cornerstones age fledgling entrepreneurs also put hurdles in the way of those seeking head, he would be able to search for a multiple languages.” further stepping­stone to improving of the reform legislation is a and some universities. to apply for one. related term in the EPO’s database, and Extensive use of Patent Search by innovation in Europe, and enabling European switch away from the cur- According to the National In particular, for inventors seeking a pan­ Google’s software would instantly comb inventors applying for pan­European patents businesses to play level with their rent “first-to-invent” sys- Small Business Association, European patent, the onus will be on them through thousands of existing patents to will make those patents that do get competitors in other regions. Moreover, I am tem, in which the fate of a the legislation “would put to make sure similar work has not already find and translate any potentially relevant approved that much stronger. “There’s a lot convinced it will facilitate development of the patent application is deter- innovative small firms and been protected by others in other countries. ones. of prior art out there,” says Mr Lambrinos, unitary patent.” mined based on the date of start-up businesses at In an attempt to ease this cumbersome “Translation is expensive work. This will using the technical term for pre­existing Google, with its vague techno­altruism, is invention. Replacing would greater risk than the cur- task, the European Patent Office, lower the barrier,” says Rainer patents. “The more prior art you can have, keen to improve access to patents around be a “first-inventor-to-file” rent system and would which is in charge of granting Osterwalder, spokesman for the EPO, the stronger the patents will be.” the world, believing that easy discovery of system, which is what most result in a US patent sys- patents, has partnered with an noting that translations for individual For Google, which is seeking to improve patents will strengthen intellectual property of the world uses, in which tem strongly tilted in unlikely ally: Google. patents can cost about €1,500. its language translation software, the regimes around the continent. Public­private the filing date is the most favour of large incumbent With a new feature called “Google will allow inventors to spot partnership gives it unique access to reams partnerships are also being pursued by important reference. corporations”. Patent Search, the California­ existing similar patents and of documents both technical and Google in an effort to find collaborative “Unlike the objective date But passage of patent based internet company has streamline the process.” The multilingual. In exchange for access to solutions to complex technical problems. of filing, the date someone reform seems to be inevita- developed advanced language programme is set to be in place by Google’s translation software, the EPO will “This project will be of huge benefit to invents something is often ble at this point, even translation software that will be the end of 2014, and the EPO is also offer Google access to patents that are inventors, scientists and innovators across uncertain, and, when dis- though some differences employed to help inventors using translation software by already translated, which will help Google Europe – enabling them to speed up R&D puted, typically requires between the House and Sen- ensure their work is not other providers. improve its software. efforts with searches in their own language, corroborating evidence,” ate version will still need to too similar to existing “The ramifications of So­called “machine translation” works by across the entire EPO corpus of European, according to a Senate judi- be ironed out. When he patents in other that are potentially huge,” comparing translated texts in multiple Asian and Russian patents,” says Antoine ciary committee summary signs the bill, President European countries. says Matthew Lambrinos, languages, and using a predictive algorithm Aubert, head of public policy at Google of the bill. “In the first-to- Obama is likely to frame Patent Search will an attorney with FAI to produce new translations. Because patent Brussels. invent system, a lengthy patent reform as a step translate patents Patents. “At the documents all employ similar styles and “Google Translate was created to help and costly administrative towards the innovation into 28 European moment, if I’m going formats, their predictable structures make break down language barriers, and this proceeding must be con- agenda he sought to lay out languages, as well ideal targets for Google Translate. collaboration with the EPO will do exactly ducted at the US Patent and in his January State of the as Chinese, Benoît Battistelli: “Machine translation helps to overcome that, for all Europeans in all languages.” Trademark Office (PTO) to Union address – one of Japanese and hails link with language barriers and make information determine who actually many measures intended to Korean. Google Getty contained in patents globally accessible and David Gelles invented first,” it added. make the US more competi- The new bill would also tive in the global economy.