Saturday, October 25, 2008

Report from the 2008 LES Annual Meeting

In this edition of IAM Perspectives we cover the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Licensing Executives Society, held on October 19 – 23, in Orlando FL. Hosted at the lovely Gaylord Palms Resort, the LES once again provided an excellent learning and networking experience for all attendees. While unofficial reports indicated lower attendance than previous years, the energy level was as high as ever.

A number of notable themes – official and unofficial – dominated this year’s meeting. As could be expected, there was significant discussion about the last few week’s global financial turmoil and the impact on – well – everything. Many expressed the perspective that radical shifts in financial markets would drive changes in intellectual property and licensing, with the effect being an increased focus in how IP owners could derive greater sell-side or buy-side value. On the one hand, technology sellers will increasingly focus on identifying and scrutinizing under-leveraged assets to generate near term revenue (and cost savings from reduced portfolio volumes); on the other hand, technology buyers will look for bargains to build and strengthen their portfolios. Under financial stress, the IP opportunity will gain greater senior visibility as a great source of corporate value. In addition to buy/sell opportunities, some identified opportunities for investors to enter the IP assets market in a large way; this being evidenced by a number of new IP investment funds and private equity activities. Interestingly, the “troll” issue—or the newly coined term Non Practicing Entities (NPE)—seemed to be somewhat less at the forefront of discussions, though certainly relevant to this discussion of asset value extraction and IP investment funds.

Open Innovation was clearly a predominant theme. Technology licensing is a foundational element of Open Innovation, and LES members and licensing professional have clearly joined the Open Innovation movement. There were a number of excellent presentations focused on all aspects of Open Innovation. John Cronin, Managing Director of ipCapital Group, along with Bruce Story (ipCapital Group), Ben DuPont (yet2.com), Phyl Speser (Foresight Science) and Chris Arena (Woodcock), gave an excellent talk on approaches, issues and challenges of Open Innovation, and collaborative, global R&D. Sue Jacobson (General Mills) and Ed Levine (Cargill), provided insight to how corporations look to partnerships as rich sources of new products and technologies.

There were a number of presentations related to tools, and the use of databases to aid the license management process. With perspectives from both the “new school” and “old school” camps, all agreed that the use of tools and databases are an important resource but not a replacement for the skills of a well trained and experienced licensing professional. A number of royalty databases and valuation tools were presented and discussed. The team of Andy Gibbs (Patent CafĂ©), Michael Lasinski (Ocean Tomo), Robert Lopes (Thinkfire), Hoo-Min Toong (IPVision), Matthew Troyer (Taeus), and Stephen Weeks (First Principles), presented a very interesting, two-part course on Patent Rating Systems.

A highlight of every LES annual meeting –especially for Anaqua—is the Tech Fair. Always an excellent venue for discovering the latest in IP and licensing related products and services, this year’s Tech Fair had over 50 exhibitors. As you would expect, the exhibitors’ offerings were well aligned with current industry trends. A number of vendors were offering software tools and professional services related to Open Innovation, partnering and technology sourcing—particularly in the biopharmaceutical space.

We also noted a seeming re-emergence of e-business or web-based licensing exchanges. At their peak in 1999-2000, various studies identified some 60+ “IP exchanges”. By 2002-03, there were less than a handful of survivors (with yet2.com a notable pioneer and survivor.) As represented at the TechFair, we saw a number of new license exchange offerings—but with various twists on the business model. While all are intriguing (either in their innovation or back-to-the 90’s approaches), a few we found particularly interesting included Taeus International’s “Global Patent Syndicate” (a simple, Google AdWord-like service that shares revenue with listing companies – www.taeus.com) and SparkIP (which uses an advanced analytical frontend to help identify and categorize listings, and match to needs – www.sparkip.com). Building on its Patent Auction franchise, Ocean Tomo has continued to innovate in the area of structured license markets, with enhancements to its Dean’s List exchange and Bid/Ask system. Highlighting many of these emerging new models, Matthew Troyer (Taeus), Stephen Chow (Burns & Levinson), and Laura Paglione (iBridge), presented an interesting session entitled Towards IP Liquidity: Progress on E-Markets.

As always, there were a number of interesting analytical tools. Of particular note was the offering from Innography (http://www.innography.com/), a comprehensive tool for managing and analyzing patents for strategic advantage. The suite of visualization tools provide a number of unique presentation approaches that increases the efficiency of analysis projects.Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Anaqua’s new License Management Solution, which was announced in conjunction with the LES annual meeting. Built on the industry leading Anaqua platform, the License Management Solution provides tools for managing all aspects of licensing, from asset review, opportunity pursuit, negotiation and agreement management. We were very encouraged by the many conversations we had with both corporate licensing and university tech transfer professionals, who are very interested in more robust, capable software systems (see our License Management press release at http://www.anaqua.com/)


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For additional information, please contact Ralph Schroeder at rschroeder@anaqua.com or (617) 375-5808.