Italian SMEs stand together for patents and innovation in Europe 

Over 30 participants including innovative SMEs, industrial corporations, investors and venture capitalists engaged with a vibrant debate on how to make Europe the most attractive hub for innovators.Torino_event2.jpg

«When we talk about patents» started-off the Head of IP – Patents & Know How at Pirelli Mr. Sergio Lasca in the conference opening remarks, «we should not start thinking that patents are a burdening cost, but rather as an innovation cost, and it has to be protected». Addressing the importance of patents on R&D investments and innovation, Mr. Lasca made the point that organizations having a significant patent portfolio are more credible in the eyes of investors.

The panel chaired by Francisco Mingorance, IP Europe, stressed the importance of innovation protection as a growth factor. Pasquale Marasco, head of ICT Innovation Pole at Torino Wireless Foundation, highlighted the SME’s stakes and concerns, as Matteo Sabattini, Sisvel CTO, reinforced the message detailing Sisvel’s example. Francesco Zaccà, Director in ICT of EPO, echoed the keynote address and said that «the main goal of the patent system is to protect innovation, to enable the innovation circle from protecting the invention, securing remuneration and re-investing in research. Yet, every challenge is a new opportunity for combining standards with open sources, and patents with protection». His opening statement «we are here to support innovation» fired up the crowd.

The role of patents in fundraising was the spine of the second panel. As two representatives of financial institutions, Luca Pagetti and Nicola Redi, respectively from Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center and Vertis, offered a finance oriented perspective. In his introduction, Mr. Fulvio Faraci, a consultant on Digital Innovation, outlined the importance of patents, by stating that «nowadays, more than 80% of the market value is based on intangible assets. Therefore, we should invest on creativity with a strong technological asset, simultaneously». Mr. Redi made it clear that a strategic patent portfolio was a necessary requirement for VC investors. Without such a patent portfolio, VCs are unlikely to invest in a technology company whose’ assets and R&D investment are potentially subject to counterfeiting by competitors. The only ‘exit’ for VC-backed companies si through acquisition or IPOs. An exit strategy cannot be undermined by counterfeiting issues. 

Mr. Thaddeus Burns, Senior Counsel on IP and Trade with General Electric, explained how «the credibility of having a patent is crucial because it has been judged by a third party that gives a fair assessment of whether you should have that patent or not. A patent is a sign of quality, which makes a good shift to the behaviour of the competitors. If they realize that you have a good portfolio in a specific area, they would be more inclined to cooperate or to acquire your company» he said.

The last session was looking at the future and provided ideas to make it brighter. Matteo Sabattini warned that the balance between patents owners and implementers is shifting towards the implementers.  Serge Raes, Standard and Intellectual Property senior Manager at Orange, stated that this current trend was already a difficult to manage for large companies and assumed it should be worse for SMEs. Francisco Mingorance acknowledged that the forthcoming European legislative proposals dealing with IPR, patents and technical data ownership offered a great opportunity to straighten the balance and empower innovative SMEs. In this respect, he gave an overview of IP Europe’s services and the role this network can play to support innovators’ interests and reminded the audience of the importance to joining forces to be more effective.

Marco Lo Bue, Legal adviser to Commissioner Muscolo – Italian Competition Authority – offered closing remarks focusing both on current competition trends — including on standards and the new IEEE IPR rules – and on future developments in legal frameworks.